The Lost: Constructions of Masculinity Gone Wrong

The Lost. 2006. Directed & Written by Chris Sivertson; based on the novel by Jack Ketchum.
Starring Marc Senter, Shay Astar, Alex Frost, Megan Henning, Robin Sydney, Michael Bowen, Ed Lauter, Dee Wallace, Erin Brown, Ruby Larocca, Tom Ayers, Tony Carreiro, Katie Cassidy, Cynthia Cervini, & Rob Elk. Silver Web Productions.
Unrated. 119 minutes.

There’s something inherently interesting about the story of The Lost. First, there’s the novel from Jack Ketchum. That in itself is based on a real killer by the name of Charles Schmid. At the same time, when considering Schmid, you can’t not talk about the incredible, disturbing short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates inspired both by Schmid and, interestingly enough, Bob Dylan. Not saying all this comes into play here. But maybe it does.
Nevertheless, director-writer Chris Sivertson brings us a screen adaptation of Ketchum’s novel that is chilling and intense. There are significant pieces of the novel changed here. Personally, it would’ve been much better if those were left the same. Part of what makes the novel what it is, so heavy and almost an assault on the senses, are the specific references, the period of time. All the same, Sivertson does a nice job adapting Ketchum anyways, despite the changes. Because ultimately The Lost is all about evil, the compliance of others around it to let it happen, and keep happening, as well as everything from wasted ambition to flawed masculinity.
Ray Pye (Marc Senter) isn’t like everybody else. He likes to wear makeup, drawing on a beauty mark and eyeliner. He also wears cowboy boots with crushed beer cans in them, so he can look taller. Y’know, to boost the testosterone. Well, one day in the woods with sometimes-lover Jennifer (Shay Astar) and friend/drug mule Tim (Alex Frost), Ray decides to boost it up even more. He kills two girls in cold blood. Jennifer and Tim reluctantly help him hide the evidence and cover things up.
Four years later, Ray is dealing drugs, more and more. He works at the motel with his mother. On the side, he pretends to be in love with Jennifer while slagging her to others, sleeping with other women, and so on. His mask of a perfect life. Soon enough, that mask starts slipping. Eventually it slips too far, and Ray spins off the rails. With Dt. Charlie Schilling (Michael Bowen) on his tail, convinced of his part in the murders four years prior, poor Ray starts to see his small town life disintegrating. Until every last piece falls apart.
There are significant aspects to the identity Ray constructs for himself. For instance, the makeup he sports. Obvious enough, that serves as a mask. A literal and figurative one, so that people can’t see the monster underneath. What’s also interesting is how Ray is this pumped up, constructed image of masculinity (or that’s what he aims for) and all the while he wears eyeliner, he pencils in a Marilyn Monroe beauty mark by his cheek. But it’s because he can’t be a real man – an honest, honourable, strong man – that Ray tries using makeup, and beer cans in his cowboy boots, all to boost that self-image.
Then we’ve also got the ring he gives to Jennifer. That in itself is another plastic piece to his existence. She smashes it and the whole thing shatters to bits. Much like how, if people examine him a little closer, Ray’s constructed identity.
An excellent bit of editing comes, subtly, as Ray goes to see Katherine after her mother’s death. It’s only a moment or two, but you can feel the frame jumping, glitching, almost frayed around the edges. Quick, brief. These are the first big cracks in the outer layers of Ray Pye’s identity. Afterwards, from the next scene towards the finale, his composure breaks down, as does the constructed masculine image he hopes to portray. Ray even finds his beauty mark getting rubbed off. The makeup cracks, literally, smearing over his face. Everything begins to break, too. He smashes a mirror, and this is all but the very literal cracking of his psyche. And where does all that flawed, wounded masculinity go after the women in Ray’s life seemingly let him down? A misogynistic, hate-filled massacre.
Absolutely the centerpiece of the whole film is Marc Senter. The first time I actually saw him was in Red White & Blue, an awesome and complex role, which he played perfectly. Then, this performance is the second one I managed to experience. Between those two I was set; this guy has talent. He’s been in a bunch of other stuff in between and since. But The Lost may provide some of his best, most intense work. Because Pye is a complicated character. He is charismatic, if not strange, aside from the murderous, hateful side that finally explodes full force in the end. Senter allows us time to feel sorry for him, even after the initial murder – you shouldn’t at all feel anything good for him, though, his acting gives us the ability to do that. And as the film wears on Senter gives us perfect reason to hate him. All the while his energy and talent makes Ray an intriguing character to experience.
A vicious, energetic horror film that’s full of chaos, The Lost is a 4-star flick. There are flaws, no doubt. Some things I do wish had been kept the same as in Ketchum’s novel. Despite any of that, though, this is one savage bit of horror cinema. The finale of the film is impressively brutal. Other than the madness there’s also a good deal of thematic material, mainly in regards to the broken, frail concept of masculinity. The lead performance from Senter is remarkable and it’ll suck you into a black spiral.
Once the final few moments play out you’ll either regret spending the time to get to know Ray Pye, or you will revel in the utter insanity of his actions.

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