The Lost is an unpleasant story about unpleasant people doing unpleasant things; but to its credit it is not an unpleasant movie. Director Chris Sivertson keeps things moving at a good pace and uses an engaging visual style to keep the audience tagging along for this rather grim ride. It’s never easy to watch, but it’s not an endurance test either. If you’ve read Jack Ketchum I don’t need to point this out, but if not… just think of it as a more vicious version of the River’s Edge cross pollinated with Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and you’ll have a clue about what you’re getting yourself into.
Ray Pye is the textbook example of a sociopath. Self-obsessed, violent, impulsive, lacking empathy, cunning but not smart; and filled with an infantile rage that always threatens to boil over at the slightest provocation. Basically, around the age of four Ray stopped growing mentally and stayed at that stage where little kids push the even smaller kids down into the dirt just because they can. The only difference is that Ray is 20 now and he’s a lot more dangerous than any kid.
Very dangerous as a matter of fact; four years ago Ray killed two girls in the woods just to see what it was like and got away with it. Now, the cops that were never able to crack the case are after him with a renewed desire to see his a*s in the slam. That, coupled with the sudden attention of a rich bad girl named Cath who thinks he’s just another loser kid that she can have fun with to annoy her daddy, and the fact that his closest friends aren’t going to put up with his s**t anymore is like putting nitroglycerin into a paint shaker. It’s only a matter of time before Pye snaps. Not that he had much of a fuse to begin with.
However, there are a few problems:
The relationship that Cath has with Ray is never fully convincing. They just don’t have enough screen time together and Cath herself is never fleshed out enough for me to understand why she doesn’t bolt like a gazelle towards the nearest guy wearing a badge when Ray tells her his murderous secret. Also, why Ray even tells her that secret isn’t made too obvious. Throughout the entire film he’s shown to be the kind of guy who uses people solely for self gratification, and then all of a sudden he’s smitten by this chick enough to risk prison? Not to mention that he tells her everything out of the blue and to no real advantage to himself.
Another thing is the sudden decision by the cops who couldn’t pin the murders on Ray to suddenly begin trying to rattle him again. It’s not that I don’t understand why they’re rattling him, but we’re never satisfactorily explained why they waited so long. We know that the one survivor of Ray’s crime has been in a coma for four years just died, but it’s a throwaway line and there’s nothing built up beyond that.
Still, this is well acted and directed and the talent behind and in front of the camera keeps these problems from blossoming into anything too serious.
Now the good:
Especially noteworthy is Ed Lauter as a retired 60 year old cop dating a 20 year old girl. He adds a nice touch of humor to a story that’s totally lacking in it, yet at the same time his performance never feels as if it’s going against the flow of anyone else’s.
Marc Senter, who’s a relative newcomer, plays Ray as someone whose gigantic ego masquerades as self-confidence. He’s the type of guy who automatically expects people to fall for his charm, and if they don’t woe on them. I like Senter’s take on the part. He gives Ray a kind of insane but genuine magnetism that partially explains why anyone would want to be around this guy and risk his mood swings; while at the same time being totally transparent as to what a true creep he is for the audience.
Oh! And little Shay Astar is in this! I couldn’t believe it. Remember her? She was in the Good Life TV series (It was kind of the Demo version of the Drew Carey show) and on 3rd Rock from the Sun. She played Tommy’s (The kid alien) girlfriend August in the latter. Anyway, I think she picked the role of Ray’s white trash girlfriend because she’s tired of being thought of as “little” Shay Astar. And I gotta admit that it’s a good choice because I had no idea it was her until after I saw the film and was investigating the credits on the IMDB. Astar shows that she’s got range and depth and can do much more than play a sassy teenager on TV. We’ve all seen former child stars pick controversial parts in movies as a desperate attempt to revive their careers. And while The Lost is hardly free of controversy, the character she plays is not some underwritten role whose biggest challenge is taking her shirt off. This is real acting she’s doing and if Astar can keep this up no one will ever even get a chance to associate her name with the “former child actor” curse.
So yeah, this isn’t for everyone and a lot of you will hate it. However, it’s a good character study that’s well acted, directed and written. Just don’t expect to be singing Zip-a-dee-doo-da when you walk out of the theatre.