Appellate Judge Tom Becker once crushed up some beer cans and put them in his boots to look taller. Neglecting to empty the beer cans first cost him his favorite pair of socks.
What's the worst thing you've ever done?
For a low-output serial killer (total murders: three), Charles Schmid has inspired an impressive amount of literature: John Gilmore recounted Schmid's story in a true crime book, Cold-Blooded; Schmid was the inspiration for Arnold Friend, the creepy character in Joyce Carol Oates' story, "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" and its film adaptation, Smooth Talk; and horror writer Jack Ketchum used Schmid as the basis for Ray Pye in his novel The Lost, which was made into a film in 2005 and is now being released on DVD by Anchor Bay.
The Lost opens with Ray Pye (Marc Senter, I Know Who Killed Me) shooting two young women because he thinks they might be lesbians. Ray's girlfriend, Jennifer (Shay Astar, 3rd Rock from the Sun), and his best buddy, Tim (Alex Frost, Elephant), witness this and help cover up the crime. One girl dies at the scene, and the other ends up on life support and dies four years later, which is when the bulk of the film takes place.
Ray is a creepy, disturbed guy who is inexplicably popular with women, constantly cheating—or attempting to cheat—on the lovely Jennifer. When all the women in his life wise up and reject him, Ray goes on a killing spree.
And that's pretty much it. We get around 10 minutes of mayhem in the beginning and around 20 minutes of mayhem at the end. The rest of the film is watching Ray Pye go about his business, which includes working at a cheesy hotel owned by his mother, hitting on hotel maid Sally (Megan Henning, 7th Heaven), dealing and taking drugs, fooling around with high school girl Katherine (Robin Sydney, The Gingerdead Man), and matching wits with the cop from the murder investigation (Michael Bowen, Kill Bill, Vol. 1) who just knows Ray shot them two girls but can't prove it.
The Lost might have worked as a character study, but Ray just isn't that interesting a character. He puts crushed beer cans into his cowboy boots to make himself look taller, slicks his hair back in a greasy DA, and wears makeup—lots of makeup, including creating an odd beauty mark on his face that becomes more pronounced over the course of the film. The film makes much of these superficial traits but fails to tie them into a larger picture of someone who wields emotional power over others.
His cocky demeanor and odd appearance might make him believable as a stud if this film were set in, say, a small, southwestern town in the '50s or '60s. But The Lost takes place in Sparta, New Jersey—not exactly a cosmopolitan Mecca, but far from an isolated, jerk-water town.
And there's no sense of when this story is taking place. Schmid's murderous trifecta took place in 1962, and Ketchum upped the body count and set his story in 1969. But the film exists in some kind of timeless void. Ray drives a gigantic, classic Buick, and other characters drive old cars, but everyone around them is driving something contemporary; characters don't use cell phones, but they do use cordless phones. People watch black-and-white programs on color TVs, and there's a drive-in burger place complete with a roller-skating car hop.
Had this been a stylistic choice, with anachronisms played up for some kind of ironic point—as was the case in the film Swoon—The Lost might have been a daring and fun movie. The Lost, though, really doesn't have a distinctive style, and it seems to exist chiefly to showcase its pair of violent bookends. Its long middle section, in which we find out what a jerk Ray is, doesn't have a lot of impact, and the other characters don't make much of an impression.
When Ray, so heavily made up that he looks like a Liza Minnelli impersonator, starts shooting people, and then kills one girl and kidnaps another at gunpoint in broad daylight from a place where he is known, puts her in the huge trunk of his giant car, and drives off among the Acuras and Mazdas, it just looks ridiculous. I'm pretty certain that even the New Jersey State—and local—police have the technology and the wherewithal to track down a fiend in heavy mascara driving a gas-guzzling getaway tank, but Ray still makes two(!!) other (and predictable) stops, taking hostages and shooting three more people along the way, and then herds his small group of captives to a remote—but occupied—cabin for carnage. Instead of an APB, we get the veteran cop frantically quizzing Ray's clueless running buddy, who finally—finally!—has a light-bulb moment. Even then, does a SWAT team show up to battle Ray? Nope, just the veteran cop and his former partner.
That this run-up to the drawn-out bloodlettings in the finale is so silly just makes the whole thing all that more gratuitous. We end with a horrifying litany of beatings, shootings, and a repulsive "homage" to the Manson Family's visit to Sharon Tate. Senter's mad act consists of giggling, quipping, rolling and bulging his eyes, and seeming to channel Jim Carrey's Ace Ventura character.
Anchor Bay does its usual good job with this release. The image looks fine, a nice, clean widescreen transfer, and there should be no complaints about the 5.1 surround audio. The best part of the disc is the commentary track with Jack Ketchum and fellow writer Monica O'Rourke, in which the two offer a lot of background on the story and locations, along with some interesting anecdotes.
The Lost has some interesting elements that, unfortunately, never come together. Had Director Chris Sivertson focused more on style and character, this could have been a powerful film.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
• Commentary with Jack Ketchum and Monica O'Rourke
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