Maya (Winona Ryder, "Autumn in New York") is a troubled young woman with a passionate devotion to the Catholic church and a taste for heavy eye makeup. Peter (Ben Chaplin, "The Thin Red Line") is a best-selling writer with a pallid blond fiancee and a specialty in true-crime tomes. These two seemingly divergent lives cross when it becomes apparent that the antichrist is getting ready to put in an appearance, and Maya is led to believe that Peter is being set up as his unwitting host. The race is on to marshal the resources of the Church and save Peter--and the world--before the new tenant takes over his body.
Rather than the soulless baddy of films like "The Omen," poor Peter is a regular guy (the antichrist drives an SUV!), and the film is most compelling when it focuses on his dilemma--that he doesn't want to be the locus of evil on earth. Less satisfying is the derivative exorcism subplot that periodically derails the action. Kaminski builds tension and character effectively but seems to be in love with showy camera tricks: There's a distracting barrage of slow motion, over-exposure and jittery speed effects.
"Lost Souls" is a movie that takes the idea of "Sympathy for the Devil" to an intriguing extreme. In spite of the frenetic camerawork and Ryder's twitchy performance, it's still a little smarter and a little more interesting than most entries in the antichrist genre and packs more than one satisfying scare. Starring Winona Ryder and Ben Chaplin. Directed by Janusz Kaminski. Written by Pierce Gardner. Produced by Nina R. Sadowsky and Meg Ryan. A New Line release. Horror. Rated R for violence/terror and some language. Running time: 98 min.