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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Lost Souls
Lost Souls
New Line
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted March 10, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Many may be familiar with the work of Janusz Kaminski from Steven Spielberg's films, where Kaminski has been the cinematographer of choice for the director on his past few films. Kaminski has even won many awards for his work, which made it all the more curious that "Lost Souls", his directorial debut, had been delayed for months and even had been sitting on the shelf for a good deal of time before that.

The film also wasn't helped by the fact that several similar films came out in the past year; "Stigmata", "Sixth Sense", etc, etc. Although a film that had been sitting on the shelf for a long period of time may (actually, probably) signals a clunker, "Lost Souls" simply may have suffered more from a market with too many films from the genre. Not that it doesn't have its flaws, the film still manages to be effectively creepy and haunting, with beautiful cinematography.

Ryder plays Maya Larkin, a young woman who was saved from a possession years ago by Father Lareaux(John Hurt). Summoned from her job as a teacher, she is there when a new exorcism goes terribly wrong as even the Father is now seriously injured. She takes notes away from the scenes - long passages of numbers that she works on for hours, as they reveal a name.

Maya finds that Satan will assume human form in one Peter Kelson on his 33rd birthday. Maya comes into his office to warn him and while he first thinks that's she's a bit loony, things gradually begin to convince him that he may be in very serious danger. The film's screenplay is the sole fault of the film, although it doesn't completely sink it. We simply don't find out enough about the characters and there's moments that fail to engage towards the end.

Still, I quite liked the approach. The film is not an agressive horror film in the way that there's constant action. The film has a slow, elegant pace that makes it even spookier. It's not always a film with literal scares, but it's often extremely creepy. The film has two things that really help it to stand out. Marco Fiore's slightly harsh, grainy cinematography often contains some beautiful imagery and the sound design is extremely creative and usually, is very effective.

In terms of the film, I thought Ryder was ultimately much more engaging as Maya than Chaplin was as Peter. Although Ben Chaplin has previously shown skills as an actor in previous films, he just doesn't quite seem into the proceedings. Ryder, on the other hand, is fantastic at being creepy and she plays "haunted" very well.

The film recieved almost a universally negative reaction when it was released late last fall. Although I don't think it's quite successful overall, it does contain some very well-done pieces, even if the puzzle as a whole doesn't quite fit together.


The DVD

VIDEO: New Line has done an excellent job with a film that contains some very interesting cinematography. "Lost Souls" is presented in the film's original 2.40:1 aspect ratio and it is anamorphic - but it's somewhat varied in its look at times. Occasionally, it is crisp and cold, with excellent sharpness and detail. At other times, it is grainy and and haunting, with a slightly rougher, softer look.

The picture has nearly nothing in the way of flaws, although the grainy look remains intentional. Still, there are no print flaws in the way of marks, scratches, or even speckles. There's nothing in the way of pixelation or shimmering, either.

Colors are intentionally subdued as well, although they seem well-rendered and accurate to the film's style. Flesh tones remained accurate and natural, and even darker scenes in the film - of which there are many, remained clear and appropriately eerie and murky, but never too much so. I thought this was fine work from New Line, really capturing the wild visuals of the cinematography. Layer change is at 1:04:40.

SOUND: "Lost Souls" provides both a Dolby Digital 5.1 version and DTS 5.1 audio version. Both provide an experience that's nothing less than terrific, and differences between the two are extremely minimal at most.

The film makes absolutely outstanding use of sound throughout nearly the entire running time. The slightest sound effects are marvelously captured. Footsteps, the echo-ish quality of voices in a large, empty room, sounds of the city streets. They come together to form a fantastically creepy atmosphere for the movie.

When the film becomes more agressive, the audio becomes even more impressive. Chilling sound effects accompany some of the film's action sequences, and surround use is wonderfully effective. Even during many of the film's quieter moments, surrounds remain active with subtle, ambient sounds or the film's score.

General quality is exceptional as well. The music comes through clearly and warmly, and envelops the viewer. Dialogue also remains clear and easily understood, with no flaws. "Lost Souls" becomes even creepier thanks to its phenomenal audio presentation.

MENUS: As always, New Line provides wonderfully animated menus for their titles and "Lost Souls" is no different. With menu audio in Dolby Digital 5.1, the menus are very creepy and a good introduction into the tone of the film.

EXTRAS:

Commentary: This is a commentary with director Janusz Kaminski and cinematographer Marco Fiore. Both participants provide a very interesting commentary, often providing details energetically and make their best attempt to be informative about the techniques used in giving the film its look (the film went through a bleach process). A little trick opens the track as their comments seem to overlap each other, but this stops after the credits roll.

There's also a good deal of talk about the issues behind the story as well as the plot and characters. The two don't simply discuss what's happening in each scene, though - they go through and analyze what's going on and provide their feelings about the proceedings. There's occasions where this discussion begins to get off-track and away a bit too much from the film, but often, there's some informative points made. The commentary towards the very end offers a very interesting discussion of the preview/testing process, for example.

Those who enjoyed the movie might find this commentary an interesting discussion of all things involved in the film, but there's some points throughout that I found slow and a bit too far from the topic at hand.

Trailer: The film's very good theatrical trailer, which offers excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

Deleted Scenes: 10 deleted scenes from the film are included with or without commentary from Kaminski. Some of these scenes are interesting and enjoyable to watch and a couple might have functioned decently in the film, as the final product comes in rather short at 98 minutes.

DVD-ROM: Script-to-screen viewer, original website.

Final Thoughts:

Positive: As usual, there are really no suprises from New Line. Video quality is very good, although the film's audio is often fantastic. A few good extras and well-done menus round out a fine package.

Negative: The movie has its problems, although I found it to have its moments. Those who are into supernatural thrillers might find "Lost Souls" to be an entertaining rental.

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