This is the second Jack Ketchum movie I’ve watched in the past few months, the first one being "The Girl Next Door". Before it, I had never heard of Ketchum, but apparently he’s held in high regard in the horror community for his tortuous, homespun tales of murder and terror. Good for him, and good for the horror community. We need some new blood, so to speak.
Sadly though, I was unable to write a review "The Girl Next Door", except for a smallish capsule I did for my DVD column. It was too much for me to take in, I felt, and to write a review in my typical style too. It was a powerfully harrowing film of pure evil that deserved to be taken seriously, and I couldn’t do it. It was like going to the Holocaust Museum while wearing a comical Hitler moustache. So I wholeheartedly recommended it, but warned people that it is an experience that will leave you more shaken than entertained. I still have yet to shake it.
But, as you can see by the actual writing of this review, the same can’t be said for the latest Ketchum adaptation, "The Lost". Don’t get me wrong — technically, it’s an immensely competent film. Everything looks good and has a nice David Lynch, dreamlike-sheen to it that works so beautifully. No, the problem lies with the main character of young psychopath Ray Pye. He’s a slice of hackneyed cheese that almost takes the film to parody levels of laughter. Why anyone would be afraid of this skinny douchebag, masterfully wearing guyliner, is beyond me.
We’re first introduced to Pye (the woefully miscast Marc Senter) and his gang of trailer park cronies as they murder former E.I. “superstars” Misty Mundae (oh, I’m sorry, Erin Brown) and Ruby LaRocca at a campground. It’s also here when we learn that Pye walks funny because he puts beer cans in his boots to make him look taller. Some comfortable gel lifts from the good people at Dr. Scholl’s would have helped him with that, and I couldn’t help but squint at the thought of the massively bloody blisters that undoubtedly cover his heel. Maybe that’s why he had such a big chip on his shoulder?
Flash forward four years later and Pye is the town lothario, screwing every chick in sight while assistant managing his mom’s apartment complex. (I can see why he’s such hot shit, ladies!) There is an underlying rage in Pye that bubbles to the top, freaking out and scaring everyone around him into submission, easily giving him free reign over their lives. And when anyone doesn’t allow it, he cries and has erectile dysfunction. And let’s not forget the cops (played by Michael Bowen and Ed Lauter, the two best reasons to actually watch this flick) that are always trying to pin those pesky murders on him.
Eventually, he does go bat-shit and kidnaps a trio of girls and tortures them, but this is where the movies completely went off the rails on the suspension of disbelief train: any one of those ladies could have kicked Pye’s ass, shotgun or not. Pye is about as terrifying as the lead singer of "My Chemical Castration" or whatever those cry-baby screamo bands are called. He minces around like a fey Goth lad, even putting a sweet little beauty mark on his cheek. All Pye needed to set him straight was to get jumped by a gang of local toughs and beaten within an inch of his life. That would at least have given him some songs to write with his friends as they hang out at the food court and make fun of the “preppies”.
But, then again, it’s apparently based on a true story, so what do I know?
"The Lost" will ultimately suffer in comparison, coming hot on the heels of "The Girl Next Door", and with every reason to. If "The Girl Next Door" is Ketchum’s "Stand By Me", then "The Lost" is his "Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice". And believe me — no one should have been scared by those brats either.