I’ll make you a bet that David Gregory’s ‘Lost Soul’ will be the most terrifying keep-you-awake-at-night movie you’ll see this year. Especially if you work in the film business. It’s the story of a young director whose passion and imagination seems to know no bounds until he is offered what appears-to-be the perfect assignment, to make the definitive film version of HG Wells’ classic ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau’. But within weeks he finds himself trapped in a twisted paradise at the bottom of the world, at the mercy of beasts more ruthless and horrifying than anything Wells’ eponymous hero could ever have created. ‘Lost Soul’ is a no-holds-barred masterpiece, a hypnotic descent into madness, barbarity, the assassination of dreams and the almost-extermination of one of the most original and genuinely exciting creative talents horror filmmaking has ever seen.

The young director’s name is Richard Stanley and everything David Gregory shows us in ‘Lost Soul’ is true. Stanley, who had already written and directed the cult favourites ‘Hardware’ and ‘Dust Devil’ by the time New Line Cinema offered him the chance to make ‘Moreau’ from his own script, had only a brief period of pre-production optimism and calm before the ego and narcissistic boorishness of his leading actors Val Kilmer and Marlon Brando quickly destroyed what could have been a truly ground-breaking genre masterpiece. If you think I’m exaggerating, Richard Stanley’s original screenplay is available to view at


and it’s an exciting piece of work, one of the finest examples of modern horror screenwriting you’re ever likely to read (yes, I’ll admit it, I’m a fan. When Richard Stanley recently returned to filmmaking (he contributed segments to ‘The Theatre Bizarre’ and ‘The Profane Exhibit’) it was like all my Christmases came at once. And I’ve always considered his second film ‘Dust Devil’ to be an astonishing achievement.)

As is ‘Lost Soul’. Richard Stanley, along with other key players and cast members caught up in the ‘Dr Moreau’ car crash (but not Val Kilmer – what a surprise), recount their nightmare experience direct to camera with honesty, some fascinating anecdotes and an unexpected amount of humour. Time may not have exactly healed Stanley’s wounds, but his perspective on events is fascinating and refreshingly bile-free. Wearing his trademark black hat (even indoors) Stanley cuts a charismatic and shamanistic figure, not unlike a character from one of his own screenplays. His retelling of events is peppered with references to real-life witchcraft (when it seemed – very early on – as if he might lose the project, Stanley asked a friend to make a magical intervention) and the story of how he ‘went rogue’ and then sneaked back on set disguised as one of Moreau’s mutant creations is the stuff legends are made of.

But the documentary isn’t only about Richard Stanley. We also learn what happened when John Frankenheimer took over directing duties and managed to very quickly alienate his cast and crew. ‘Moreau’ actors Fairuza Balk and Marco Hofschneider share some particularly engrossing but disturbing stories.

David Gregory, who co-founded ‘Blue Underground’ in 1997, has directed and produced a multitude of ‘behind the scenes’ documentaries and DVD extras, directed and co-wrote the horror feature ‘Plague Town’ in 2008 and is also co-founder of ‘Severin Films’, an independent production company that is also one of the finest and most dedicated distributors of cult movies in the American and European marketplaces, is obviously as passionate about unravelling the truth behind ‘Moreau’ as Richard Stanley was passionate about telling HG Wells’ story when he pitched the original project to New Line twenty-plus years ago. Gregory’s enthusiasm for his subject, and his respect for Stanley as a filmmaker, imbues every frame. He keeps the documentary moving at a fantastic pace but never lapses into superficiality or spares us any of the nastier details. This is obviously the whole damning journey, warts and all. Admirably, he also never intrudes on the film. There are no self-conscious directorial tricks, no clumsy editing, no sense that we are watching anything other than a group of survivors from (reputedly) one of the ‘worst films ever made’ telling us their war stories as casually and without artifice as if they were sitting across from us at a party. Moreover, the copious and very welcome amount of behind-the-scenes photographs, illustrations and storyboards are inserted so intelligently into the flow of the conversation it often feels as if we are watching a feature film instead of a feature documentary.

Even if I were not a Richard Stanley admirer, I would still consider ‘Lost Soul’ to be one of the most entertaining, riveting and remarkable documentaries I have ever seen. It is also essential viewing for anyone interested in cinema, whether they’re a horror fan or not. Don’t miss it. It was a huge privilege to be allowed to watch ‘Lost Soul’ before its World Premiere and I cannot recommend it highly enough.


VERDICT: [rating=5]

About The Author

Ian White is an author, screenwriter and journalist. His book ‘Witchcraft and Black Magic in British Cult Cinema’ was recently published by Hemlock and he is a regular contributor to ‘Paranormal Underground’ and ‘Starburst’ magazines. He’s currently writing a new book and screenplay and his embarrassingly out-of-date website can be found at http://ianwhitelondon.wix.com/ian-white