Monday, October 19, 2015

The Lost

Does the title of The Lost (2006) more accurately refer to its spaced-out, going-nowhere characters or does it better describe the story? Based on the novel of the same name by Jack Ketchum, The Lost is touted to be based on a true story. How accurate it is I don't know nor is it particularly important. The movie tries too hard to include too many subplots, too many characters, and too little focus in its two-plus hour running time that even after watching it, it's hard for me to figure out what point it was trying to make.

The Lost begins like it's going to be about amoral youths on a killing spree. One day out on a campground, Ray Pye (Marc Pye) decides on a whim to murder two girls who are staying there and then has his friends Tim (Alex Frost) and Jennifer (Shay Astar) help him cover it up, although one of the girls escapes. Four years later, the surviving girl dies after being in a coma, and police Detective Charlie Schilling (Michael Bowen) still believes Ray is the killer, even though he could never prove it. New girl Katherine (Robin Sydney) arrives in town, and she and Ray hit it off.

The movie has moments of intense violence. Plenty of people get shot and stabbed, and it's quite horrific and bloody.  The climax involves a cruel, sadistic act performed by Ray against a pregnant woman (thankfully, the worst of it occurs off-screen). There's also some unsettling sexual threats (the movie opens with Ray accosting a naked woman and making her very uncomfortable very quickly). By the end, Ray goes on a shooting rampage, kidnapping the prominent women characters, and taking out his anger on everyone, but it's a long haul to get there.

What is The Lost supposed to be about? Ray Pye and his descent into murder and depravity? Well, he's already a murderer when the movie opens, and he doesn't really change much except to do more killing out in the open by the end. The efforts of Schilling to nail Ray? Well, he's gone for long stretches of times that you forget he's in the movie. The same with Tim and Jennifer, who seem equally driven by love for and fear of Ray, but they too get pushed aside until the end when the movie requires they get brought back in. Then there's Katherine, who's set up as this alluring, mysterious girl with a dark past and seems to be leading Ray astray (not that he's not already corrupted) before she abruptly calls things off with him.

Rather than present a cohesive narrative, The Lost feels like a collection of different ideas and scenes, and it doesn't seem to really get anywhere. We start off with one piece, play it out, and then move on to the next, and as a result, dramatic tension doesn't really build. It's a lot of stuff happening, but I can't tell what their significance is or how they relate to each other.

There's so much packed in here that doesn't seem important and relevant to the plot - a cameo by Dee Wallace-Stone as the mother of one of the dead girls, the former partner of Schilling who has since left the police force (I think but it doesn't stop him from helping out at the end) and is now secretly dating the daughter of a colleague, this same daughter who gets a job at the motel owned by Ray's mother. Maybe Ketchum portrayed this better in the book, but I wouldn't know, having not read the book. This adaptation needed to be lean and mean, but it just feels bloated and overlong.

The other problem is Ray himself. The movie begins with a line of text telling us how Ray puts crushed up beer cans in his boot so he can look taller. Yes, he is dangerous and nasty and yes kind of creepy, but I found him mostly lecherous. I'm also not sure why he dresses like a 1950s greaser, with slicked back, dyed hair, a fake mole, makeup, and cowboy boots. He's an odd bird to say the least, but I think a little goes a long way. We spend a lot of time with him without finding much about what makes him tick (apart from rage issues regarding women). He's mostly a punk who threatens vulnerable women.

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