Lost Junction (2003)

I don’t know about you, but when I find an aughts-era Neve Campbell thriller set in the hot, sticky depths of the American South, I expect it to be a knockoff Wild Things. A real trashy one. It turns out Lost Junction is more a knockoff of the Melanie Griffith matricide dramedy Crazy in Alabama, so it’s an entirely different kind of trashy. Instead of echoing Wild Things‘s audience-trolling triple crossings and poolside threesomes, Lost Junction offers trashy delights of a much weaker flavor: Neve Campbell struggling to master a Southern accent; an emotional plot-stopping monologue from acting powerhouse Jake Busey; a touristy road trip to pre-Katrina N’awlins; vintage CW visual aesthetics, etc. It’s rated R, but it’s Rated R for “Language,” since Campbell’s genteel Southern belle can’t stand to hear the gruff men in her life do a cuss, so they tease her with those cusses incessantly. I expected Lost Junction to be a Bad Movie; that’s fine. I just wasn’t prepared for it to be such a chaste one.

You’ll have to excuse my unusual lack of contextual bearings here. Lost Junction apparently did not exist prior to my stumbling across it at a local Bridge House thrift store, and only the thinnest of Wikipedia pages has had time to populate since that fateful purchase. To borrow some inane language from people who like to chat Avatar online, this film has no cultural footprint. It’s not even streaming on its obvious, destined home platform Tubi. The only reason a bad-taste loser would ever pick up a physical copy in the wild is whatever residual affection for Campbell as a screen presence still lingers so many decades after her Golden Age titles like Wild Things, Scream, The Craft, and Party of Five. There’s some small pleasure in seeing her do a half-speed Kristin Chenowith impersonation as the world’s most chipper femme fatale, but it’s not a good sign that Jake freakin’ Busey steals the show from under her with only a fraction of the screentime. By her tragic damsel’s own admission, she can’t cook, she can’t sing, she’s not that bright, and she’s kind of a prude. There’s not much to her at all outside her “Southern” accent and her off-screen history of domestic abuse. As a result, there isn’t much to the movie either.

Billy Burke costars as a generic Drifter With a Past who hitches a ride with the wrong dame, climbing into the Manic Pixie Murder Suspect’s car not knowing that her husband’s dead body is cooking in the trunk. Our star-crossed lovers meet in the first few frames, and although the film basically functions as a sunlit neo-noir, there isn’t much actual criminal behavior in their subsequent Bonnie & Clyde crime spree. The dead husband clearly deserved it, it’s frequently questioned whether Campbell actually did it, and most of the movie is a getting-to-know-you first date that happens to involve his rotting corpse (give or take a third-wheel intrusion from Busey). At least in Crazy in Alabama, Melanie Griffith took great transgressive delight in carrying around her husband’s head in a hatbox. Here, Campbell would rather just pretend that her husband never existed, which isn’t much fun for the (nonexistent) audience following along at home. The most incongruous cheeriness we get is in the impromptu road trip to New Orleans, where Campbell refers to our cemeteries as “neat little buildings” and the doomed couple dance at a bar called Gator Blues. It’s cute, but it’s not worth the commute.

While perusing her IMDb page to confirm that Lost Junction does indeed exist, I was shocked by how many films Neve Campbell headlined in the aughts. She basically disappeared from my radar at the close of the 1990s, outside occasional resurfacings as Sidney Prescott or as one of Don Draper’s anonymous hookups. It turns out there are plenty of post-Wild Things titles out there waiting to offer the sleazy Neve Campbell thriller that’s apparently missing in my life, titles like Intimate Affairs, Last Call, and When Will I Be Loved. Or, those are just more dusty DVDs waiting to prank me with eye-catching, tantalizing covers at the thrift store, only to reveal their overly demure nature once I take them home. I hope Jake Busey will be there as a third wheel to keep the mood light & chaotic, because there’s no way I’m going to avoid taking the bait a second or third time.

-Brandon Ledet