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LOST SOULS ($25) is a movie that sat on the shelf for more than a year before briefly hitting the local multiplex and heading onto home video. The fact that LOST SOULS sat on the shelf for so long indicates that the studio was unhappy with the final results and I can see why. Without a doubt, LOST SOULS is a disappointing supernatural thriller, which makes me wonder if anyone actually read the script before putting this movie into production. The final product shows that a lot of time, talent and countless millions of dollars went into this movie; therefore someone should realized that the script was lacking important things like a cohesive story and a climax before giving LOST SOULS the go ahead. But then again, maybe the story looked better on paper than it did on celluloid (although I tend to doubt it).

LOST SOULS stars Winona Ryder as Maya Larkin, who was once a victim of demonic possession. Despite her traumatic ordeal, Maya remains close to Father Lareaux (John Hurt), the exorcist who saved her and assists him in dealing with other cases of demonic possession. After an exorcism that goes badly for the victim, as well as Father Lareaux, Maya is given clues that will unlock the identity of the antichrist, who will soon assume human form. LOST SOULS also stars Ben Chaplin as Peter Kelson, the young man Maya believes will become the Prince of Darkness on his 33rd birthday. While LOST SOULS presents a lot of interesting ideas, the movie never really gels and the film's supposed climax is anticlimactic to say the least. All of the actors turn in very good performances, which greatly exceed the scope of the material they are given to work with. Director Janusz Kaminski and cinematographer Mauro Fiore provide impressive visualization, but the script is too lacking to produce anything truly memorable. The cast of LOST SOULS includes Sarah Wynter, Philip Baker Hall, Elias Koteas, John Beasley, Victor Slezak and John Diehl.

Of course, New Line does their usual impressive job with the DVD release of LOST SOULS; producing another first class presentation that faithfully reproduces the filmmakers' intentions. LOST SOULS is framed at 2.35:1 and the DVD features the anamorphic enhancement for playback on 16:9 displays. Unlike almost every other new film playing at the local multiplex that displays a crisp glossy veneer, LOST SOULS has a distinctive look that creates an eerie, somber mood throughout. LOST SOULS is purposefully grainy and the colors are muted, sometimes almost to the point of appearing monochromatic. The image is as crisp and detailed as the processed film elements will allow, which is still very good. Since the majority of colors are so muted, there are no problems with chromatic distortion or smearing. Even the occasional stronger hue is completely stable. Blacks are pure and the level of shadow detail is reasonably good. The film’s intended look is also excessively grainy, which works well to give the movie an edge that enhances atmosphere. Neither blemishes nor scratches were apparent on the film element used for the transfer. Digital compression artifacts do not affect the presentation in any perceivable way.

LOST SOULS features a very good Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack that is atmospheric and fully directional. The rear channels are aggressively deployed with both ambience and split surround effects. Additionally, the forward soundstage has a wide-open sense of presence, with excellent channel separation and clean panning of sound effects. Dialogue reproduction is very natural and fully intelligible, despite everything else going on in the mix. Bass is full bodied and gives a sense of solidity to the sound effects. Jan A.P. Kaczmarek score is well recorded and mixed into the soundtrack to maintain its distinct musical presence. A DTS 5.1 channel soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, and sounds very similar to the Dolby Digital track. However, the extra resolution of DTS adds a bit more immediacy to the sound effects and increases the fidelity of the music. The other soundtrack option on the disc is a standard Dolby Surround track. Subtitles have been provided on the DVD in English.

Animation and sound are utilized to enhance the interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some supplements. Director Janusz Kaminski and cinematographer Mauro Fiore are on hand to provide a running audio commentary. The commentary is interesting, but very technical minded. Still, Kaminski does manage to interject what he was trying to achieve with the visuals. Also included on the DVD are five deleted scenes and five extended scene with optional commentary. The extended scenes don't add up to all that much, but the deleted scenes are interesting because they effect characterization and would have changed the audience's perceptions of one of the film's protagonists. A theatrical trailer, plus cast/crew biographies/filmographies fill out the video supplements. LOST SOULS is also DVD-ROM enabled with web links and option of reading the film's screenplay.

LOST SOULS is a decidedly flawed film, but would be worth picking up for an evening, especially if one is interested in viewing its experimental cinematography, or just listening to the movie’s well-produced soundtrack.


Lost Souls


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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