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Movie Review

At age 32, Peter Kendell has already established himself as a cutting-edge author and an authority on serial killers. He studies them. He interviews them. He writes about them. But there’s more to Kendell than even he realizes. He is the man who, at an appointed "time of transformation," will be indwelt by Satan and become the Antichrist. The unassuming, handsome Kendell is oblivious to his destiny, but others are not. He is surrounded by apostates of hell who protect and manipulate him. Then there’s Maya Larkin, a young woman of devout faith who was a demon-possessed juvenile delinquent before being rescued by Father Laraeux and his Catholic colleagues. Now she’s a school teacher and occasional sidekick of Laraeux when her dark background can aid him in ministering to other lost souls. After witnessing a failed exorcism, she decodes a message scribbled by the institutionalized madman. It identifies Kendell as the Beast. So Maya sets out to educate Kendell, save his life and avert global disaster.

positive elements: God good, devil bad. Even though this bizarre concoction plays fast and loose with biblical prophecy, Maya and others express a deep, life-altering faith in the Lord. Maya, trying to keep Peter from lowering himself to the level of his fiendish friends, tells him, "If you commit murder, you accept evil." Other noble moments (theological loopiness notwithstanding) include Maya looking past Peter’s destiny and trying to help him as a human being ("Until it happens, you’re still a person"), and Peter rejecting the offer of absolute Satanic power, even preferring death over playing such a diabolical role in mankind’s history.

spiritual content: Weird, though occasionally inspiring. The film opens with a strange reference to "Deuteronomy book 17" which supposedly speaks of the Antichrist being a product of incest. Huh? The film also hypothesizes that Satan, at millennium time, will hijack the body of a chosen man on his 33rd birthday and use the guy to establish a kingdom on earth (a priest in league with the devil states, "They had their 2000 years. Now it’s our turn"). The final scene also implies that the plan can be thwarted if the intended host is killed. Are end-times prophecies that easily derailed? One of the characters who reveals Peter’s identity is a self-proclaimed "psychic" who interprets a dream and tells him that the "time of transformation is near."

Symbolism ranges from the mark of the Beast (666) to a huge pentagram that has been placed over Peter for protection. A priest decides to assassinate Peter and prays, clinging to his rosary, prior to making the attempt on Peter’s life. Several characters suffer from demon possession. Unfortunately, one is faithful Father Laraeux which suggests that a saved person can actually become a puppet for evil against his will. Still, this sets up an interesting confrontation. The possessed Laraeux tells Maya to cease and desist—that everything’s going to be alright. She’s suspicious. To "test the spirits" and confirm that Laraeux is indeed channeling evil, she baits them by saying this must mean that Christ has claimed His ultimate victory and Satan is a defeated, groveling worm. It works. The demons can’t stand it and blow their cover.

Maya boldly tells Peter (who initially contends that good and evil are merely illusions), "What if I told you I believed in God and the devil. In fact, I know that they both exist." Best of all, she has chosen sides and has chosen wisely. Peter, on the other hand, claims to be the needle on his own moral compass. But even he comes around. As evidence turns up suggesting that he is indeed being groomed for Armageddon, he goes to a church to pray and, at the foot of a crucifix, asks God for help. In one scene, Maya is asked by a little girl if she’s lonely. "I have someone who takes care of me," she responds, referring to Jesus. Then the child turns vicious, obviously an apparition sent to torment her. "Jesus is dead!," the girl taunts over and over before telling Maya, "You are so weak!" Again, this could be perceived as a slap at Christ’s resurrection power or a desperate lie from a crafty enemy bent on discouraging one of God’s people.

sexual content: No sexual activity, though the topic comes up in conversation.

violent content: A serial killer threatens Maya with a knife. Then, once he has outlived his usefulness to Satan, the psycho falls to his knees and is reduced to a mass of snapping limbs and ooze. Several people are shot and killed. A priest’s neck is broken. Peter is told how his neighbor hanged herself. Nightmarish visions haunt Maya. Exorcisms are violent and creepy.

crude or profane language: Only a handful of profanities, but they include three f-words.

drug and alcohol content: Maya is often seen smoking cigarettes. Peter indulges in a cancer stick as well.

conclusion: Lost Souls, which was scheduled to hit theaters nearly a year after it was first scheduled, has run into scathing critical reviews. And justifiably so. It’s not a very good movie. This bizarre mix of pseudo-Bible prophesy, illogical plot turns and tortured characters adds up to a convoluted muddle. A few frights. Some gothic set pieces. If it has any redemptive value at all, it’s the story’s clear distinction between good and evil and its affection for noble religious people. Maya even has a few solid lines about the sovereignty of Christ. But for all of its talk of supreme spiritual warfare, the film gives Maya and Peter—two confused, distraught humans—entirely too much control over the proceedings. That’s a lot to swallow, regardless of your theology. As millennial thrillers go, Lost Souls is simply ridiculous.

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Winona Ryder as Maya Larkin; Ben Chaplin as Peter Kendell; John Hurt as Father Laraeux; Philip Baker Hall as Uncle James; Elias Koteas as Deacon John Townsend; an uncredited appearance by Alfre Woodard


Janusz Kaminski ( )


New Line Cinema



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Bob Smithouser

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