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Evil Number-Crunching

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 13, 2000

   


    'Lost Souls' Ben Chaplin and Winona Ryder in the mathematical satanic thriller, "Lost Souls."
(New Line)
Here's a thought, after watching "Lost Souls," which is another of those horror flicks about Satan's spawn: What would Satan worshipers do without numbers?

It's amazing to me that, for all their pronouncements about the power to destroy's God's work on earth, these guys are always waiting for the right time and the right combination of numbers before the doom program can begin.

There they are, the meanest sentient or spiritual beings in existence, and they're waiting for Year So and So, or some variable of 666, or some numerological combination that was predicted in the Bible, some seventh sign of this and that or – in this case . . . the 33rd birthday of a certain someone who just might be the son of . . . Satan!

These guys, these Rosemary's People, are nothing but geeks with potbellies and horns. Forget the pentagrams. They should worship slide rules. They should drop the bell, book and candle and pull out their Palm Pilots.

It's time for them to own up to themselves. They're just glorified trainspotters, plane spotters or algebraic club conventioneers. I mean, if they're so much tougher than the Supreme Being, why are they so caught up with ancient timetables? Get an anti-life.

Well, moving past this minor issue, let's quickly discuss "Lost Souls," which seems to be nothing more or less than Winona Ryder's desire to wear Gothic makeup. She has excellent eyes for mascara, by the way. Nonie, girl, you are so Blair Witch!

She's Maya Larkin, who was saved from the devil's clutches by Father Lareaux (John Hurt), a priest with all the right facial wrinkles and European presence.

But Satan lurks everywhere and could return at any time. When Maya and her priestly pals (including Father Lareaux) attempt to exorcise possessed serial murderer Henry Birdson (John Diehl), the killer leaves a numerically coded warning. True to geeky tradition, Maya decodes those numbers to spell out the name of Peter Kelson.

Kelson (Ben Chaplin) happens to be a bestselling author who likes to write about criminal psycho-killers and demystify the evil around them.

There's the setup. You don't need to hear any more. But you should know that "Lost Souls," which marks the directorial debut of Janusz Kaminski, cinematographer of "Schindler's List" and "Saving Private Ryan," is a pretty dreary affair to sit through. It's not even scary. Reason: Kaminski's trying to make a classy thriller. This means no cheap scary effects. No pigeons fluttering. No camera closing in on the hero with loud music. And only a few will-his-head-explode? moments. Basically, it's just a green-tinted, contemplative pseudo art- horror flick that can't avoid such silly pronouncements as this – from a certain Evil Character, whose identity I shouldn't divulge: "They've had their 2,000 years. Now it's our turn."

There you go again, you guys, with your numbers, numbers, numbers!

"Lost Souls" (R, 102 minutes) – Contains long-winded implications of scariness choking in a sea of green cinematography.

 

Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company


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