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Lost Souls

Lost Souls

By Patrick Samuel • September 22nd, 2012
Static Mass Rating: 3/5
New Line Cinema

Original release: October 13th, 2000
Running time: 97 minutes

Director: Janusz Kami?ski
Writers: Betsy Stahl, Pierce Gardner

Cast: Winona Ryder, Ben Chaplin, Sarah Wynter, Philip Baker Hall, John Hurt, Elias Koteas

Lost Souls

As a small boy I once overheard a conversation I probably shouldn’t have. In whispered voices a group of women spoke about children who weren’t baptised. I heard them say they’re kept in Hell by the Devil and that he was always looking to find one he can use to come back here to take us all with him.

I should’ve been terrified but I wasn’t, I was more curious than anything else. With the idea of possession, my imagination soared with fragments from films I caught on television in the years that followed. Could such a thing really be possible? If religion is all true, then could God’s adversary – the Devil, really be waiting for his moment?

While The Exorcist (1973) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968) might be most people’s “go to” films dealing with the subject, I found Lost Souls to be the one that offered a story that could really happen because it made it seem so normal…so inevitable.

Maya Larkin (Winona Ryder) is young Catholic woman who survived demonic possession as a child. She works as a teacher but also devotes her time to helping Father Lareaux (John Hurt) and John Townsend (Elias Koteas) as an assistant at exorcisms.

During an exorcism on psychotic killer Henry Birdson (John Diehl), he leaves them with a random series of letters before going into a catatonic state. Maya realises it’s a code which correlates to a prophecy about the Devil being reborn. The prophecy also gives the exact date and time he’ll take hold of a human soul. Maya goes a little further in her research and discovers the name of the unfortunate man… Peter Kelson (Ben Chaplin).

Lost Souls

With just a matter of days before the transformation takes place, Maya has to track him down and convince him of what’s about to happen. However, Peter is a sceptic and has other ideas about the origins and nature of evil. Rather than giving up, Maya puts him through several tests so they can both see she’s right.

According to the prophecy, the one chosen by the Devil will be born out of incest and the transformation will coincide with his 33rd birthday. While Peter denies his conception was anything out of the ordinary, he’s nearing the end of being 32, but that doesn’t mean he’s the Prince of Darkness, they need more proof.

Maya gives him a tape to listen to, recorded at Birdson’s exorcism, but when Peter listens to the tape, he hears nothing even though he turns it up full volume. Lost SoulsMeanwhile his elderly neighbour dies after frantically beating on the wall for him to turn it down.

While there are more revelations to come about Peter’s family, Maya finds herself completely alone after Father Lareaux and Townsend depart from the story. All signs point to Peter being the one, but with the time of transformation drawing nearer each second, will she able to stop the Devil on her own?

“One of the few good things about this Antichrist movie is that it deals with demonic possessions in a realistic manner. Unlike the typical Exorcist extravaganza of pea soup vomit and rotating heads, Lost Souls avoids Hollywood sensationalism by maintaining the victim’s normal physical features but capturing the spiritual violence behind closed doors with a few animal sounds and minimal glimpses of the exorcists doing their duty with grave spiritual difficulty.” ¹

This is certainly true of Lost Souls. It’s not a film without its faults, in fact there are many, ranging from the meandering story, poorly constructed characters and Lost Soulsthe way in which the exorcism scenes are rendered, but what I like about it is the way Peter’s character is depicted. There’s a normalcy to his predicament, almost as if he can’t avoid evil no matter where he turns – it’s all around him in his mundane life; from his dreary apartment to his seemingly regular family.

It leads to climax that’s anti-climactic at best, but yet somehow works in context of the rest of the film and is therefore inevitable.

“This naturalizing of demonic possession paints a more realistic picture of the phenomenon but creates a confusing ending when the heroine must shoot said suspected Antichrist in the head, though all she has for final assurance that she’s right is the number 666 flashing on the radio. This evidence is easily hallucinogenic and hardly a proof that this absolutely noninfluential nobody of a writer is the ultimate unholy horror of history who is supposed to take over the world. The smallness of this identification of evil incarnate virtually deconstructs the idea into absurdity. But then again, maybe that’s they wanted to do after all. ” ¹

There’s much to say about Lost Souls being a poorly made film, but I feel the idea of the normalcy of evil shouldn’t be overlooked. The film is loaded with instances where we see this playing out. This is combined with acts we think are done out of kindness, and words we hear spoken but believe to mean something else.


  • Godawa, B. Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films With Wisdom & Discernment (2002), Inter-Varsity Press ¹

I remember after watching the film I did find myself wondering if I too could be a vessel for the Devil, specifically because, like Peter, I don’t subscribe to any religious doctrine, and also because I was born on Friday the 13th, the same date (but not year!) the film was released.

If I were in any way superstitious then I’m sure I’d find a way to link to the two, but seeing as my 33rd birthday went by last year without an apocalypse of any kind, my best guess is these are just stories told to scare and entertain us, whether they’re in films, books or overheard from neighbours over garden fences.

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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