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Lost Souls review

Outside of The Exorcist, did anyone ever buy into this sort of God-bothering schlock? Janusz Kaminski's directorial debut has taken a year or so to be released, presumably to try and distance it from the similarly slovenly spiritual horrors spewed up during the last year. There's fat chance of that, though, because Lost Souls is right down there with Stigmata, The Ninth Gate and, ironically Bless The Child. Like them, Lost Souls is dumb, anachronistic and takes itself way, way too seriously.

As a cinematographer, Kaminski shot Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan and Schindler's List with flair. Sadly, he's fatally heavy handed as a director, freighting even the most second-hand spooksome schtick with self-important portent. Once the backwards titles are done with, we get numerous dripping taps, gruff-voiced little girls, slo-mo footsteps and bleeding walls grafted onto a vision of America as a dank, bleached-out hellhole with no lighting.

All this pretension makes Lost Souls very easy to dislike, and the cast just toss more grist into that mill. Between them, Ben Chaplin and Winona Ryder wouldn't know gravity if it pinned them to the ground - - certainly Ryder's idea of `serious' amounts to no more than lots of twitchy smoking. And the old guard (John Hurt, Philip Baker Hall) might just as well have "slumming it" slapped all over them.

The backbone of the plot feels just as half-baked in Hell, given that it involves the stupid idea that Satan's appointed time of arrival on Earth coincides exactly with the date and time of Kelson's birth - - as counted down on a car clock. After years of crowd-pleasing levitations, spewing and speaking in tongues, the Big Old Red One's finally got himself a brand new party trick: punctuality. Shame about the lack of frights.

This late arrival in the short-lived devil movie revival should have got lost on its way to the video shop bargain bin. Lazy performances, tragically silly plotting and over-emphatic direction make it as annoying as it is old hat. A total horror.

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