“Lost Child” is a moody Missouri thriller about a soldier who comes returns, scarred by war, only to contend with the superstitions of the foothills village she called home.
It’s got remote locations and a hint of folkways going for it, and a solid performance by leading lady Leven Rambin to build it around.
But there’s not much of a story here, nothing remotely chilling. The script, co-written by director Ramaa Mosley, just tends to wander around until it stops.
Fern (Rambin) gets off the bus in West Plains for the first time in 15 years, checks into her late father’s remote cottage and stumbles into a local bar where she comes on strong to the bartender (Jim Parrack). She’s announced to one and all that she’s looking for her brother Billy, but a gal’s got to start looking somewhere.
Waking up with Mike doesn’t get her any closer to her missing sibling. But when she stumbles across a filthy urchin (Landon Edwards) in the woods behind her house, she has a genuine mystery on her hands. The locals, being rural and Southern, are more direct.
“Who’s your people?”
Taking him to the local doctor gets the boy, who goes by “Cecil,” more of the same.
“Who’s your Lord and Creator?”
Seems they have this legend about “The Howler,” a creature of the forests. That connects to this “demon” or woodsprite that she’s taken in, a “Tatterdemalion” in local folklore.
The local social worker — who happens to be the bartender she picked up — cons her into keeping the kid until he can track down the family, which nobody else believes this “tatterdemalion” has.
Fern doesn’t believe, and considering what she went through to adopt a dog from the animal shelter, we sympathize. She’s back among the primitives. Fern was advised to get a dog “for protection.”
“From the living or the dead?” the drawling shelter clerk wants to know.
The dogs are baying, it’s bedlam. And the clerk shouts “Which ONE’a you can PROTECT this woman? SPEAK!”
Dead silence until one dog dares to whimper. He has been selected.
That’s the best scene in “Lost Child,” previously titled “Tatterdemalion.”
The matter of fact way everybody suggests “The Howler git him?” or “Maybe you’ve got ghosts” is promising, even if the bright daylight of most scenes don’t create the creepy atmosphere Mosley needed for this to amount to something, even without big action beats or frights.
Rambin, a rawboned character actress with “Hunger Games” and “True Detective” credits, is faintly interesting as this character, but she can’t spin gold out of paw-paw blossoms.
“Lost Child” never finds more than her character and her performance, and that’s just not enough.
MPAA Rating: unrated
Cast: Leven Rambin, Taylor John Smith, Jim Parrack
Credits:Directed by Ramaa Mosley, script by Tim Macy, Ramaa Mosley. A Breaking Glass release.
Running time: 1:40