THE LOST pulled me in right away. On the screen it says “Once upon a time, a boy named Ray Pye put crushed beer cans in his boots to make himself taller.” And to the tune of what sounds like an old rock ‘n roll tune (but is actually a modern song I guess – the time period of the movie is indistinct) we see these boots strutting awkwardly toward an outhouse. Their owner surprises a buxom young girl (Erin Brown, better known as Misty Mundae) on her way out, buck naked. “I thought we were alone out here,” she says, embarrassed. He asks her if she has a cigarette.
This could go different ways, but since the movie is based on a Jack Ketchum novel I think you can guess it’s gonna be one of the bad ones. After they part ways Ray (Marc Senter) hornily spies on the girl and her female companion (Ruby Larocca) before going back to his two friends Jenn (Shay Astar) and Tim (Alex Frost, who I didn’t recognize as the main kid from Gus Van Sant’s ELEPHANT). And he does that horny thing – he can’t stop thinking about what to do with these girls, but he keeps circling around trying to play nonchalant for a while before he tries to convince them to go look at these girls, which clearly doesn’t please Jenn.
When they do spy on the young women and Ray interprets a gesture of support as them being “lezzies” he decides to shoot them. You know, like hunting rabbits, he explains. Maybe a hate crime, maybe an excuse for a sicko that was gonna do this anyway. And then he convinces his friends that they were a part of this and should help him cover his tracks.
It’s a horrifying opening that seems to set up a gloomy, dread-filled, hiding-a-murder story like RIVER’S EDGE, but then it skips forward 4 years. Ray has not been caught. Jenn and Tim are still his best friends/victims, keeping his secret, afraid to anger him, wanting his approval. Now it sets up some more players: two detectives who still suspect Ray, one of them (Ed Lauter of DEATH WISH 3 and THE ARTIST) a 60 year old sleeping with a baby-faced twentysomething named Sally (Megan Henning) who works as a maid at the Starlight Motel, which Ray manages for his mother (Helen Siff). And various other girls that Ray becomes obsessed with, especially Katherine (Robin Sydney), a rich girl rebelling against her pops (Tony Carreiro, LETHAL WEAPON 2) by hanging around this weirdo.
It’s mainly a character piece, a portrait of this weird American psycho. His appearance is immediately odd, like a bully from a Stephen King period piece crossed with a CLOCKWORK ORANGE droog. He’s incredibly vain, seems to see himself as some kind of James Dean type with his boots and slicked back hair. The movie gives him glorious musical montages to back up his vision of himself, even if he’s just unclogging a toilet or something. It’s late in the game before it’s for sure that his look isn’t a mistake by the movie’s makeup department. No, Ray puts on makeup every day, creating his own persona, even giving his cheek a fake beauty mark.
He has a charming front that barely conceals the controlling, cruel person behind it. But it’s enough charisma to drag in all kinds of young women who believe he loves them or are willing to have sex with him or go to his hotel drug parties. In the rare cases where someone calls attention to him being full of shit he gets flustered and turns pathetic. Even Tim and Jenn must question the story he tells when somebody asks him why he walks funny.
During most of the movie he’s just a crazy asshole with a horrible secret. He’s not terrorizing anybody yet, just breaking hearts and promises. Sometimes furniture. But there’s that tension of is he gonna get caught first or is he gonna snap first, and who’s he gonna go after?
It veers off onto these side plots, like the relationship between Lauter’s character (conveniently named Ed) and Sally. I’m sure that amounts to more in the book, but I still liked it here, giving it a novelistic feel with all these smaller characters whose fates will eventually intertwine. The other detective is played by Michael Bowen (Buck from KILL BILL) and as the cop who’s actively trying to bust Ray he’s more crucial to the plot but also has plenty of interesting character quirks, including the way he seems uncomfortable with Ed’s young girlfriend but also tries to help him out with things like convincing her not to work with Ray and defending Ed when her dad comes after him.
And I really like the creepy relationship between Ray and his two secret-keeping friends. Astar is great becomes she seems so strong and with it but is still incapable of getting away from Ray. He strings her along and treats her like shit and she keeps going for it like Charlie Brown going for that football.
The whole cast is good, and except for the detectives and a heartbreaking scene with Dee Wallace Stone it’s all actors I’ve never seen before. Actually I learned from IMDb that I had seen the actress who plays Katherine before. From my review for THE GINGERDEAD MAN: “The one exception is actually Ms. Sydney, who seems to take the role of the heroine very seriously. She actually does a pretty good job in the scenes where her character is emotional, and when she’s flirting with the 30 year-old twentysomething with the eyebrow ring her eyes look like she’s truly infatuated with him. She will probaly go on to success on some TV show or something. You heard it here first.”
Okay, so she hasn’t yet, but she’s good in this. This could still pan out to be another Amy Adams in CRUEL INTENTIONS 2 situation. There’s a great, crucial scene where they go on a date and she playfully asks him questions about his dark secrets, not realizing that this is a guy who has real dark secrets. It’s an intense back and forth between two fractured minds threatening to break the rest of the way open.
But Senter as Ray is the standout. Obviously he gets the showy role, but he runs with it admirably. It’s unfair to compare a performance to Christian Bale in AMERICAN PSYCHO, because nothing’s gonna hold up to that, but that’s probly the closest comparison for a scary but humorously full-of-himself maniac character. He reminds me of Rob Lowe with a drop of Crispin Glover awkwardness. In his most dangerous moments he starts gently reassuring people, like after that first shooting he calms Jenn and tells her she’s going to remember this forever. He says it like that’s a good thing, and she nods like it makes sense.
I think the box says it’s a true story, which is not exactly true. It’s inspired by a couple true crimes. The opening murder is based on a hate crime that really happened, the character of Ray is inspired by a serial killer named Charles Schmidt, who did stuff his boots and wear makeup, including a fake beauty mark on his cheek, and did have two younger friends who kept his secret for years. But the story and everything that happens is fictional, so don’t go thinking this is a fairly accurate account of something that really happened. Unless you’re into thinking that when it’s not true, which I guess is your right.
Man, this one kinda came out of the blue for me. The cover for the DVD would be fine for a paperback on the grocery store book rack, but it looks pretty terrible on a DVD or blu-ray:
Nothing personal to whoever designed that, but that’s not cuttin it, man. And the vague title doesn’t help, even if it comes from the book. But I guess somebody did know what they were doing because they put this Tobe Hooper quote on the back: “A slice of CNN pie that corkscrews down into hell. A must see.” And that got me.
I didn’t figure that was a guarantee of quality, but it was enough of a clue for me to give it a shot when I’m on a Slasher Search. As it turns out it’s really not a slasher movie and I’d put it more in the crime category than horror, but whatever it is I like it.
While watching it I had no idea where this movie came from or who made it. On the end credits I noticed that Lucky McKee was one of the producers (which makes sense since he has a connection with Jack Ketchum from RED and THE WOMAN). Going through the credits of writer/director Chris Sivertson I saw that he co-directed something called ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE with McKee, so he seems to be a buddy of his. That one doesn’t seem to be on video. Another one called THE BEST OF ROBBERS, also not on video. He did a making of documentary for Tobe Hooper’s THE TOOLBOX MURDERS. That movie starred Angela Bettis, so there’s another McKee connection.
But then, holy shit – this is the guy who directed the notorious I KNOW WHO KILLED ME! I didn’t see that one coming. His latest is called BRAWLER from 2011, and it’s a fight movie starring Senter. It’s on VOD so I might have to splurge and see it after my Halloween duties are completed.
If you remember I kinda liked I KNOW WHO KILLED ME. But I would never have guessed this was the same director. That one was very show-offy and gimmicky in its visuals, and convoluted and crazy. This one’s not as memorably insane but seems much more in control. There are a few indie-in-a-bad-way touches – an amateurish scene transition or two, the old soundtrack-of-okay-unsigned-bands syndrome, and an ending that’s not too abrupt or inconclusive but to me at least feels kinda… not quite like where to end it. But shit, this is a hell of a movie that’s stuck with me for several days since seeing it. Ladies and gentlemen of the internet, it’s time you found THE LOST.
VERN has a new action-horror novel out called WORM ON A HOOK! He has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the film criticism books Seagalogy: A Study of the Ass-Kicking Films of Steven Seagal and Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer!: Writings on Bruce Willis, Badass Cinema and Other Important Topics as well as the crime novel Niketown.