The Lost (2006)

Based on a novel by Jack Ketchum, which was inspired by the true story of American serial killer Charles Schmid, The Lost is a startlingly bleak tale of hopelessness and escalating madness.

The central character; Ray Pye, who embodies Schmid in all but name, even down to his exaggerated appearance, is a charismatic but sociopathic 19 year old who decides one day, to shoot two young girls at an otherwise empty campsite in order to ‘see what it feels like’. With his two best friends in tow, he cocks the gun and fires without even a hint of hesitation or remorse. This primal act proves to be the lighting of the touch-paper as far as Ray and those that surround him are concerned. The movie then fast-forwards 4 years later and we soon discover that one of the girls who had been in a coma for all that time has just died. The police are sure it was Ray but they frustratingly can’t prove it; his friends have been domineered and bullied into covering for him and they’ve now run out of leads. It’s only when the sophisticated Katherine moves to town that Ray’s World begins to unravel, bit by bit.

At first glance, The Lost feels like a rather confused mess of a film. The era in which it’s set is never clear; some characters dress in conservative 60’s and 70’s attire, others appear more modern and Ray’s own look, with his immaculate quiff, thick pancake make-up, drainpipe jeans and Cuban heels, is obviously influenced by 50’s ‘greasers’. Upon closer inspection though, whether intentional or not, it’s this confusion that lends the movie a surreal, dreamlike kind of quality which actually assists the progression and makes Ray’s impending mental breakdown all the more intense.

The characters all feel very real, from the oddly alluring yet frighteningly unhinged Ray, to his meek, down-trodden girlfriend Jennifer, to Katherine, who looks, and acts, every inch like the sexy femme fatale’s of film noirs’ heady heyday.

Ray’s increasing insanity is handled wonderfully. He, initially, seems unshakeable; a confident man who is a leader and never a follower but as the film progresses, holes appear in his emotional armour and the scenes leading up to his breaking point are a master class in tension. This is largely due to Marc Sentors central performance. From the very first frame he appears in, he embodies the cocky, smug nature of someone who never hears the word ‘no’ but also manages to show the subtle idiosyncrasies of someone who is secretly deeply insecure. Adding to that are some brilliantly under-stated metaphors, such as the sounds of a buzzing fly that becomes louder the more out of touch with reality Ray becomes and his increasingly unkempt appearance.

My only real complaints are the sleazy, almost made-for-TV feel of the movie, the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, wasted opportunity of a pointless Dee Wallace Stone cameo and the somewhat flabby mid-section that causes the central part of the movie to lose momentum for a while. These are minor complaints however, in an otherwise fantastically shocking movie. And the final moments are truly shocking; something that is often promised but seldom achieved. It will leave some kind of impression on you, whether you love it or loathe it.

The Lost is one of the only horror films of the last few years that never really feels like a horror movie. It appears to have come up with it’s own set of rules, never succumbing to following the standard horror template to the letter. It’s for this originality, if for nothing else, that audiences should seek out this cult gem.

Rating: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

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