If you know the name Chris Sivertson, it’s prob­a­bly for an unfor­tu­nate rea­son — he was the direc­tor of the mis­be­got­ten Lindsey Lohan thriller, I Know Who Killed Me.  Said opus was award­ed mul­ti­ple Razzies for its con­fus­ing plot and the nightlife-addled per­for­mance of La Lohan.  Simply put, it was the Wrong Movie at the Wrong Time with the Wrong Actress.

However, it was an inter­est­ing film to look at regard­less of what you took from it, main­ly because of Sivertson’s flashy, European-styled direc­tion.  He got his start col­lab­o­rat­ing with Lucky McKee (he edit­ed McKee’s acclaimed May) and his style gave some of us the feel­ing he could do bet­ter work with a bet­ter vehi­cle.  The Lost is his direct­ing debut, a film shot pri­or to I Know… — and a more inter­est­ing dis­play of his poten­tial as a film­mak­er.  It has its own flaws to deal with but it also has a pow­er that shows Sivertson to be a very promis­ing film­mak­er.

The Lost is based on a nov­el of the same name by Jack Ketchum (who cameos here as a bar­tender).  It was inspired by a real-life seri­al killer case — Charles Schmid, the “Pied Piper Of Tuscon” — and tells the tale of Ray Pye (Marc Senter), an over­grown Peter Pan-type hip­ster who spends his time act­ing as an elder states­man to the admir­ing teens of his small town when he’s not man­ag­ing his mother’s seedy motel.  Ray is also a killer — the pro­logue shows him off­ing two teens at a camp­ground and then brow­beat­ing his two cohorts, some­time girl­friend Jen (Shay Astar) and eas­i­ly-con­trolled lack­ey Tim (Alex Frost), into help­ing him dis­pose of the bod­ies.

Flashforward to a few years lat­er.  Jen and Tim go with the flow as Ray con­tin­ues to live his aim­less life.  However, Detective Charlie Schilling (Michael Bowen) still sus­pects Ray for the camp­site killings and dogged­ly pur­sues the case as Ray sets his sights on new con­quests.  The first is Sally (Megan Henning), a young col­lege-bound girl who is hav­ing an affair with a cop (Ed Lauter) a few decades her senior.  She quick­ly rebuffs him but he finds greater luck with Kat (Robin Sydney), a girl with domes­tic prob­lems who likes to indul­ge her dark side.  Ray’s obses­sion with Kat — and the pres­sure applied by Schilling — spark the fuse of his inter­nal time bomb, result­ing in a third act where every­thing goes hay­wire in a very stark and bru­tal fash­ion.

The end result has some notice­able rough edges.  At two hours, The Lost prob­a­bly runs about ten min­utes too long.  The finale is a bit too hur­ried and chaotic in its chore­og­ra­phy to reach the kind of fever-pitch fren­zy it is reach­ing for.  Finally, despite giv­ing a very brave per­for­mance, Senter is nev­er quite as phys­i­cal­ly or psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly threat­en­ing as his char­ac­ter should be — and this real­ly hurts the film’s last act.

However, said flaws shouldn’t deter cult film types from check­ing The Lost out.  Whatever its flaws, it still packs a hefty punch.  Sivertson’s direc­tion is styl­ish enough to tran­scend his bud­getary lim­i­ta­tions, using Zoran Popovic’s sleek, scope-for­mat pho­tog­ra­phy to enhance the pro­duc­tion val­ues.  He nev­er shies away from the vio­lent or sex­u­al extremes of his mate­ri­al yet he han­dles them in a way that is explic­it with­out being crass­ly exploita­tive.  The extrem­i­ty bol­sters the inten­si­ty of the sto­ry instead of serv­ing as a sub­sti­tute for inten­si­ty — for exam­ple, the furi­ous last few sec­onds cap the film with a psy­che-dam­ag­ing gut-punch that will stay with you long after­wards.

Sivertson is also a bet­ter direc­tor of actors than many of his fel­low young hor­ror film­mak­ers.  Adult thes­ps are used to good effect: Bowen and Lauter deliv­ered nice, lived-in per­for­mances as the film’s cop char­ac­ters and Dee Wallace Stone is gen­uine­ly affect­ing in a brief bit as the haunt­ed moth­er of one of Ray’s vic­tims.  Better yet, Sivertson gets com­mit­ted, gut­sy per­for­mances from his younger actors: Sydney is both allur­ing and affect­ing as the girl who gets under Ray’s skin while Astar is great as the emo­tion­al­ly abused lover who des­per­ate­ly avoids see­ing the truth about Ray.  Senter does a nice job of show­ing the need­i­ness and infe­ri­or­i­ty com­plex under Ray’s psy­chosis.

Hopefully, The Lost is a har­bin­ger of bet­ter things to come in the future for Sivertson.  He sur­vived the chaos of I Know Who Killed Me and is sup­pos­ed­ly at work on an ada­p­ata­tion of a nov­el by Richard Laymon, anoth­er heavy-hit­ter author of cult hor­ror nov­els.  In the mean­time, The Lost is a wor­thy anti­dote to the all the limp teen-ori­ent­ed fare dom­i­nat­ing the hor­ror mar­ket­place.

WARNING: The Following Trailer is NSFW: