Director: Chris Sivertson (2006)
Starring: Marc Senter, Shay Astar, Alex Frost, Megan Henning
Like his Girl Next Door, Jack Ketchum's The Lost is not strictly a horror movie. But it contains such disturbing scenes of violence and cruelty that it's completely horrifying in the most human sense of the word.
One night, just for shits and giggles, 19-year-old Ray Pye (Senter) breaks out his rifle and shoots two innocent, unsuspecting teenage girls. Complicit but uneasy are his friend Tim (Frost) and occasional girlfriend Jennifer (Astar), who help him cover up the crime. Four years later, and the gang seem to have gotten away with their crime. Everyone knows that it was Ray what done it, but no-one can prove a thing. Detective Charlie Schilling (Michael Bowen) is determined to bring Ray to justice, dogging the lad to his wits' end. But will his obsessional harassment of the kid lead Ray to do something even more terrible? It's certainly starting to look that way.
Like everything else the author has done, I loved The Lost. It's a hefty novel, juggling multiple characters and motivations. There's this tendency with Ketchum's books to make the villains a little too evil (Crazy Aunt in The Girl Next Door, Chris Cleek in The Woman) but his Ray Pye is almost sympathetic. As sympathetic as a multiple-murdering psychopath can be, anyhow. Ray is a bizarre creation - easily one of the most memorable literary villains in the genre - a quiff and makeup wearin', Elvis listenin', smooth talkin' kid who wears crushed beercans in his boots to make himself appear taller. He's a ridiculous boy, but charismatic and hypnotic all the same.
This doesn't translate to film too well. The Lost is a very faithful adaptation of the book, every bit as much as The Girl Next Door and Offspring. Whole strings of dialogue are repeated verbatim, and the characters are very faithfully recreated. This doesn't give everyone space to breathe; Pye has more than enough screentime, but his victims and lovers less so. The Lost may have worked better as a TV miniseries than a 90 minute movie. But no amount of runtime can make up for the fact that Marc Senter's Ray Pye steals literally every moment and scene of the movie. And not in a good way.
The book doesn't shy away from Ray's inherent ridiculousness, but the movie is overpowered by it. He's impossible to take seriously. In the book, there were glimpses of charisma and charm, but here he looks and sounds like a fool. I find it hard to believe one woman would give Ray the time of day, let alone the great many he has swooning over his every word in this film. He's not menacing, seductive or sympathetic. By the squealy, annoying finale, he's become an annoying mess of tics and nonsense. Marc Senter is fully channeling 90s-era Jim Carrey. So much so that I expected Ray to drop a "somebody stop me" or "smokin'" during all the climactic noise.
It's not that Senter is bad in this movie - quite the opposite - if anything, he's too good. His performance is uncomfortable to watch, veering between comic to tragic. He's never scary, although some of the things he does become quite affecting. None of the other characters or actors stand a chance.
Tonally, The Lost is all over the place. It has the tone of a comedy but the script and story of a crime drama, with the hard violence of a horror. Due to budgetary constraints, it's set in the modern day, but completely feels like a period 70s' piece. Maybe it's my own fault, reading the book so soon before watching the movie. It's gripping, well-directed and well-acted, but something never quite sits right with this adaptation. It simply feels a little... lost.