Lost, The (2006)

Reviewed by Andrew Kasch

Starring Marc Senter, Shay Astar, Alex Frost, Megan Henning

Directed by Chris Sivertson

While the film industry continues its trend of thoughtless recycling (does anyone care who’s remaking what anymore?), literature remains a gold mine of untapped material. There are so many original stories in print, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better writer of horror than Jack Ketchum. If you’ve never picked up the man’s work, then stop reading and haul ass to the local Barnes & Noble. Best known as the author of The Girl Next Door and Off Season, Ketchum’s novels pack a serious visceral punch and the time for a film version has been long overdue.

So why did it take over 20 years for his work to reach the screen? Maybe the world just wasn’t ready.

Based on the novel of the same name, The Lost is a multi-character study that revolves around one seriously disturbed individual: psychotic teen Ray Pye. On the surface, he’s nothing more than a first-class asshole – a dressed-up phony who parades around with his God complex. But Ray takes it to the next level. He indulges in a life of drugs and womanizing, and surrounds himself with push-over friends. He’s a guy who will stop at nothing to feel superior, even if it means hurting other people.

Hanging out at a campsite one afternoon, Ray decides to brutally slaughter two girls and, with the help of his friends, succesfully covers it up. Four years later, Ray continues to ride his power trip from the murders, and tensions are at an all time high. His friends have grown more distrustful and two desperate cops are still trying to bring him down for the crime, resulting in a series of events which threaten to push his unstable mind completely over the edge.

A story this dark and complex could only be made independently, and let’s be honest – most indie filmmakers lack the chops to handle this kind of material. Luckily for us, writer/director Chris Sivertson is up to the task and he’s created one powerhouse of an adaptation. The Lost is a stunning debut film.

This is psychologically-damaging, reality-based horror that works on the same level as films like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and Sympathy for Mr Vengeance. There are over half-a-dozen characters, all of which are integral to the story, and Sivertson manages to keep track of the entire lot. The narrative moves along at a slow grind, taking its time developing each of the characters and their unsettling relationships. But it works and the threads all come together with a truly savage and unforgettable finale.

Sivertson directs with a manic, gritty style and the film is led by a completely fearless cast. Mark Senter is absolutely frightening as Ray Pye. He’s a train-wreck on two legs, full of cockiness and ferocity. The supporting players are equally strong, from Michael Bowen’s hard-edged detective to Dee Wallace Stone’s emotional cameo. Each actor brings a significant amount of sympathy to their character, but the performance of the year goes straight to Shay Astar and her heart-breaking portrayal of Ray’s abused girlfriend, Jennifer. Her acting skills easily trump that of any Hollywood starlet and she provides the story with a real emotional center. All in all, this is one of the greatest ensembles you’ll see in a genre film.

That’s not to say that The Lost doesn’t have problems. Ketchum is an author known for internalizing his characters and while Sivertson does an admirable job adapting the material, certain motivations are left completely in the dark. For example, we never really get a sense of what triggers Ray’s cataclysmic breakdown in the final act; things go wrong and he’s suddenly bat-shit nuts. And while all the story threads and characters are relevant, the film still feels a tad overlong with a few scenes that could easily be trimmed down. But these seem like minor quibbles when held up to the overall impact of the final product.

With his feature debut, Chris Sivertson has proved himself to be a genuinely daring filmmaker. Disturbing and powerful, The Lost is a triumph of independent cinema – a bold novel turned equally bold film that will haunt you for a very long time.

4 ½ out of 5

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Steve Barton

You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.