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Lost Souls

The thermostat of hell is turned way down for this tepid thriller about Satan's scion. Directed by Janusz Kaminski, Spielberg's cinematographer (whose directorial debut this is), and credited to first-time writers Pierce Gardner and Betsy Stahl, this low-grade fever of a film stars Winona Ryder as Maya Larkin, an exorcism veteran who has come to the conclusion that Peter Kelson (Ben Chaplin), a writer of non-fiction serial killer books, is the spawn of Satan. But even Kelson doesn't know about his true identity. All Maya has to do is convince the writer that her charges are true, and then he can go ahead and kill himself. However, the coven of seemingly ordinary people (Philip Baker Hall among them) who have raised Kelson have different ideas. Imagine a story about Rosemary's baby all grown up and ready to take over, and you have an idea of this film's premise. This is a rather talky thriller, with discrete, imposed "suspense" set pieces that have no bearing on the overall proceedings. No one works up much of a sweat except Ryder, who plays a driven, frantic, unpleasant heroine. Lost Souls may be one of the most hexed films in recent memory. It was originally slated for release in October, 1999, but was held back for various reasons (the movie may have been re-written and partially re-shot), and then the similarly themed The Ninth Gate, Stigmata, Bless the Child, and End of Days beat it to the punch, followed by the release of The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen. Finally making its debut in October of 2000, the $26 million film went on to earn back only $16 million. The DVD release from New Line, in a nice anamorphic transfer of the 2.35:1 image and with English Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1, acts as it this were The Exorcist all over again. Besides the usual supplements (theatrical trailer, talent files), the disc comes with a rather sad audio commentary by the director and his cinematographer, Mauro Fiore, and a selection of deleted scenes with commentary, which are among the most boring ever provided on a disc. DVD-ROM features include script-to-screen and the film's official website. The musical, animated menu offers 20-chapter scene-selection. Snap-case.
—D.K. Holm

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