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Lost Souls (2000, Winona Ryder, Ben Chaplin)

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Having experienced redemption by exorcism, Maya Larkin (Winona Ryder) becomes an assistant to her mentor, Father Lareaux (John Hurt). The pair attempt to ‘save’ murderer Henry Birdson (John Diehl) after his release from prison, but the ritual goes wrong and Lareaux is crippled. Convinced that Satan is loose and looking for a human host, Maya decodes a message that appears to identify the target: author Peter Kelson (Ben Chaplin). Having argued against the existence of evil, Kelson is sceptical about Maya’s warning. But as coincidences mount and his dark heritage becomes visible, the writer begins to take notice. It may already be too late…

Spielberg’s long-term cameraman Janusz Kaminski starts his directorial debut by setting himself a large challenge. How do you rework the oldest of all themes – good against evil – in a genre dominated by The Exorcist ? His answer is to let the audience do the work, using colour, camera, set, script, and lighting to fashion a sense of impending apocalypse. Light and dark (be it church candles, or failing torches) have a literal role in this drama, and addictions drive the characters (the good guys are caffeine-wired smokers; the others gluttons). Ryder and Chaplin are adequate in their roles, but lose out to the veterans. Hurt’s presence is almost a by-law of horror movies like this, and Philip Baker Hall pitches his ageing Satanist just right, chewing on lines like ‘They’ve had their 2000 years – now it’s our turn.’

production details
USA | 97 minutes | 2000

Director: Janusz Kaminski
Writer: Pierce Gardner

cast
Winona Ryder as Maya Larkin
Ben Chaplin as Peter Kelson
Connie Ray as Mother
John Hurt as Father Lareaux
John Beasley as Det. Mike Smythe
Brad Greenquist as George Viznik
John Diehl as Henry Birdson
Philip Baker Hall as Father James
Elias Koteas as John Townsend
Sarah Wynter as Claire Van Owen
Alfre Woodard as Dr. Allen
Victor Slezak as Father Thomas
Bob Clendenin as Mental Patient
Michael Mantell as Kleiman
Ming Lo as Michael Kim ‘Robert’
Anna Gunn as Sally Prescott
W. Earl Brown as William Kelson
Cyd Strittmatter as Susan Kelson
James Lancaster as Father Jeremy
Ashley Edner as Gina
Jamie Denbo as Sharon
Kate Beahan as Flirtatious Girl