Some spooky cinematography and a good cast are much wasted in this “new” New Line horror — which is reportedly not so new, having sat on the shelf awaiting release for more than a year. It finally came out this month to cash in on the re-release of The Exorcist. The good look of the film is to be expected as debuting director Janusz Kaminski is currently Stephen Spielberg’s favorite cinematographer, having worked on four Spielberg films (with more to come).
However the script, credited to Pierce Gardner (Fatal Instinct) and Betsy Stahl, seems to have been tampered with quite a bit by the studio – then messed up even further in the editing.
Winona Ryder stars as a young woman who was possessed by the devil at an early age, but had a successful exorcism. Now she teaches French in Catholic school by day, but by night teams up with padres John Hurt (Alien) and Elias Koteas (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Prophecy) to perform exorcisms. I found the whole movie more enjoyable by pretending Ryder’s character is the same as in Beetlejuice. Apparently the girl picks her parts these days by whichever one lets her smoke the most.
This God Squad is called in to exorcise an asylum patient. We don’t get to see the exorcism, which is a big problem in this picture: not enough happens on screen. The patient ends up in a coma, but first transcribes a message in secret demon code that only Winona is smart enough to understand.
It all points to celebrity criminal prosecutor Ben Chaplin, who is supposed to be the target of an ancient Biblical prophecy which says he’ll be possessed by Satan on his 33rd birthday. Ryder spends most of the film trying to convince Chaplin of what she believes, then they both spend the rest trying to convince her teammates.
It takes parts from The Exorcist, The Omen, and even Rosemary’s Baby, but Lost Souls ends up looking more like End of Days. There’s a lot of set-up for scary stuff that never happens. Chaplin is likable, but in no way portrays the sharp attorney he’s supposed to be. The plot gives a lot of opportunity for impressive action and drama, but seems too scared to take the plunge. The ending could have gone several more satisfying directions than the one settled on. We’re promised nightmares, but given an odd little character piece.