Island of Lost Souls


From Denmark comes this kids’ fantasy adventure film that attempts to give Hollywood’s recent infatuation with the genre a run for its money.

14 year old Lulu’s just moved to the ‘country’ with her mother and brother Sylvester, and is shocked by the small-town nature of this, um, small town (sound familiar?). Lucky for her there’s actually all sorts of ancient evil lurking about, so she won’t need to worry about passing the time.

Island of Lost Souls (De Fortabte sjæles ø)The opening scene of the film is a flashback to the year… sometime… It’s dark an’ gloomy and at first looked post-apocalyptic rather than mediaeval. It’s kind of embarrassing, in an ‘adults acting down to a kids’ movie’ kind of way, and like most preludes to films, could have been cut. Once we move to the present day, the pace (and credibility) picks up. That this is almost a solid fantasy film is frustrating – if this were Hollywood the script would have been picked over by countless uncredited script doctors, and possibly patched up some of its holes. (I already regret referring positively to that pastime.)

Sarah Langebæk Gaarmann is fantastic as Lulu, though her character isn’t quite as fleshed out as she could be. There’s a couple of comments about her being ‘more into the world of the dead than the living’, letting her hair fall over her face and generally dressing in black, but pretty soon everyone’s too busy trying to stop the impending apocalypse to pay any attention to character. Young Lukas Munk Billing effectively plays two people, as Sylvester gets jerked around a lot by spirits, and his performance is extraordinary – much more convincing than Tobey Maguire’s emo-Spiderman shtick. Nicolaj Kopernikus (what an awesome name) is perhaps one of the few adults in the film that correctly judges the tone, and as the failed paranormal investigator his forever frazzled and confused expression perfectly counteracts the film’s sillier moments.

There’s a bit of action to be had, but not as much as there should be. One particular chase is thrilling until making some rather glaring mistakes towards the end, and it seems that director Nikolaj Arcel has a bit to learn when it comes to shooting an action scene. On the plus side, there is an evil scarecrow, who is awesomely performed/computer rendered – I just wanted more of this stuff.

It’s good to see other countries getting in on the fantasy craze, and for all I know this could be better than the forthcoming The Dark is Rising, if the trailer’s anything to go by. Island of Lost Souls is just that bit too lightweight to be great, perhaps because it doesn’t have a well-respected novel behind it. The script falls into cliché a little too readily. Kids will probably enjoy it, but there isn’t much to entertain adults.

Rating: 2.5 stars
Review by Stuart Wilson, 16th August 2007
Hoopla Factor: 3 stars

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