The Lost (2005)
From the very beginning, The Lost catches you off guard and lets you know you’re in for something different from the usual teenage psychopath movie. While “different” is something to be admired and should be encouraged more often, it hardly qualifies the film for masterpiece status. The Lost is a mixed bag; one with some unsettling performances and shocking violence, but it also has paper-thin characters and performances as well as a mix of drama and horror that doesn’t work.
Based on the novel by Jack Ketchum, The Lost is an all-too realistic story about three friends, the leader of whom, Ray Pye (Marc Senter), is a kid just a few cans short of a six pack. The trio is out in the woods one day when they stumble across two lesbian campers. Ray decides that, as any normal person would, the right thing to do is to shoot them both with a shotgun. The first girl dies instantly while the second is critically injured but escapes, saved by a couple of motorists. Four years later, Detective Charlie Schilling (Michael Bowen) and partner Ed Anderson (Ed Lauter) know that Pye was the killer, but could never prove it. Prompted by the death of the second girl after years on life support, Schilling decides that he’s going to do whatever he can to get Ray this time.
At the same time, Ray’s friends Jennifer (Shay Astar) and Tim (Alex Frost), both witnesses and unwilling accomplices to the murder, live with the guilt of what happened knowing that if they say anything Ray will kill them. Ray, meanwhile, has his hands full with Kat (Robin Sydney), a girl new to the area who takes a liking to him and his unsettling demeanor. As he plunges headfirst into a downward spiral of sex and drugs, every subplot comes together, bringing the film to a shocking climax more grueling and upsetting than anything within the past few years.
As is the case with all genre films, the villain is always the more interesting character because he is not bound by the same rules that the hero is forced to abide by. Of any movie villain, Ray Pye is certainly one of the more interesting ones. He’s an insecure young man, angry at the world and women who reject his advances, and he uses violence to intimidate people into being his friends and/or sexual partners. He is the classic psychopath, one who hides behind a soft-spoken and seemingly sweet facade. This sense of insecurity is apparent from his habit of stuffing his boots with crushed up beer cans in an effort to make himself look taller and more threatening. Jennifer, in a fit of anger, even refers to it as a way of making his manhood look bigger.
Besides the crushed beer cans, the film suggests that Ray is insecure on a sexual level as well. When we first meet Ray, we see a tall, thin kid who wears a little bit of make-up. He claims that it’s because he’s in a band, but we never see him rehearsing or make reference to it ever again. After the cops break up one of his usual parties, Ray trashes the place and then demands that Jennifer service him. When he can’t get an erection, Jennifer tries to tell him that these things happen, but he angrily replies that it never happens to him. Later on in the film we see this come up again as he’s making love with Kat and apologizes to her for going too fast, saying that it’s never happened before.
Marc Senter’s performance as Ray is quite good and shows some early promise through most of the film; however there is not enough cohesion to make the character a fully-formed villain. His acting is sometimes too over the top – especially in the climax -- and Ray comes across more as a whack job off his meds, rather than an individual who is a living embodiment of evil.
Other characters do not get even that level of characterization, unfortunately. Tim is someone who I never could sympathize with, or even care about. Halfway through the movie I thought he would show some backbone, rise to the occasion, and stand up to Ray. Unfortunately, that never happens; he just stays a coward who always does what he’s told. The only character who shows glimpses of a character arc is Jennifer; although Ray controls her emotionally and psychologically, she eventually stands for herself and leaves him. However, it’s short-lived, as she quickly becomes the victim again when he takes her prisoner, terrorizing her. As for Kat, I never liked her right from the start. She’s too much of the cold, shallow ice princess type you usually find in teenage high school movies and the film never creates sympathy for her.
The biggest problem with The Lost is in its pace and structure. As said before, this is not a straight horror film, but a hybrid of drama and horror. While there’s never been a problem, for me at least, with combining different genres to create something new and exciting, the pieces must fit together and balance one another for it to be a successful mix. The Lost does not do this. The film tries too hard to show Ray Pye as a human being and not a psychotic killer; the result is that we aren’t as engaged or frightened by him. Another problem with the film is that there are too many subplots -- I counted four -- that the energy set up in the beginning loses steam and not enough attention is paid to the original murder. What would’ve made it better, I think, is if it dealt more with the conflict between Ray and his friends and how they didn’t want to be controlled by Ray any longer.
From a visual perspective, director Chris Sivertson largely shoots the scenes in a straightforward fashion. He simply places the camera at the angle that would best capture the scene and lets the actors play it out. There are a couple of instances where he uses stylistic tricks such as a washed-out grainy look and abrupt close-ups of a person’s face or eyes. However, these tricks don’t really do anything for the film and only last a minute or two, so there’s really no point to them.
On the positive side, the film is violent and disturbing. It does not sugar coat anything and it presents violence the way that it should be presented: gruesome, upsetting, and horrific. It must be noted that those expecting the film to be a bloodbath will be disappointed; the only violent, gory moments are in the beginning and end.
In the end, The Lost is a good movie, but not a great movie. It has one central performance that is pretty strong, but surrounded by performances that are weaker and a hybrid of drama and horror that doesn’t work. I don’t know if I would recommend the movie, but if you happen to come across it in the video store it might not hurt to give it a try.