Friday, March 28, 2008

The Lost (2008)

Hanging out in the woods one night, Ray Pye (Marc Senter) and his two friends Tim (Alex Frost) and Jennifer (Shay Astar) stumble across two women (one who happens to be Erin Brown, aka Misty Mundae, in the nude) camping. After spying on them for a bit, Ray suggests they “pop” them with his rifle. He notes how exciting shooting rabbits is, but says it would be more thrilling to shoot these two innocent girls. Ray gleefully goes through with his plan, viciously shooting the defenseless girls while his petrified friends go along with it as well as helping Ray cover up the crime. They are as scared of Ray as they are enamored of him.

Four years later, the original detective on the case, Charlie Schilling (Michael Bowen), is still convinced Ray is the killer and keeps a careful watch on the womanizing charmer. Meanwhile, Ray’s despotic rule over his friends slowly crumbles as Detective Schilling applies pressure to him and the group.

The usually slick and smooth Ray finally snaps, going on a merciless shooting rampage and taking several hostages up in an isolated house. Can Detective Schilling find him before more people are brutally killed?

More about a group of lost, disaffected youths than about a budding serial killer, The Lost is Chris Sivertson’s film adaptation of the Jack Ketchum novel of the same name. Initially, I didn’t enjoy the film at all, but a few days after viewing it I found it had grown on me a bit. While I’ve never read this particular Ketchum book, his trademark dark portrayal of suburbia/society is evident in the film.

Ketchum’s trademark nastiness is most evident in the opening scenes as well as in the conclusion. The opening scenes capture Ray’s viciousness as well as his ability to manipulate those around him. While the opening scenes start with a bang (literally), the middle of the film feels more like an after-school special about the dangers of peer pressure, abusive relationships, and drug and alcohol abuse than a horror movie. There’s even a large chunk of the film devoted to Ray “falling in love” (obsessing is more like it) over the sultry Katherine (Robin Sydney). Things quickly feel like they are developing into a teen drama with the added love triangle between Ray, Jennifer and Tim. The horror finally kicks in again at the end, when Ray is wronged one too many times and starts brutally shooting people, but it comes a little too late.

Jack Ketchum himself has praised this adaptation (you can hear him on the DVD’s commentary track), but I just wasn’t completely sold on it. It feels a bit too uneven and I know many horror fans won’t enjoy this film. Blame mustn’t be placed on Sivertson, though, who does a wonderful job with the direction. Though his screenplay might be a bit rough at times, it always feels like Ketchum material, examining the nittiest and grittiest underbelly of society.

The performances from the actors were extremely convincing, though I did want to knock some sense into Tim (Frost) and Jennifer (Astar) for being friends with Ray after all the abuse and threats they suffer. Also, while Marc Senter gives a maniacally charming performance as Ray, at times his portrayal felt a little too forced and over the top. Still, he makes Ray into a good-lookin’, smooth-talkin,’ intense guy and really made me believe people would fall for his charisma.

Fans of Ketchum’s book The Lost will no doubt be impressed by this film, but as for the rest of us…it feels a little lacking. Not even a short cameo by Dee Wallace Stone helped to perk things up. The Lost has intense opening and closing scenes, but the rest of the film is lacking suspense, tension or much else to keep your attention except for a few intense performances.

Still, this movie has “cult film” written all over it and I won’t soon forget it.

Available from Amazon!

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