Fans of exploitation director Joel Wynkoop will love seeing his first feature Lost Faith arrive on Blu-ray. This faith-adjacent action thriller allows Wynkoop to indulge in his love of martial arts and Chuck Norris movies. Here he stars as a down-on-his-luck kickboxer whose skills are tested as he searches for his missing wife while overcoming his demons. The Blu-ray from Saturn’s Core provides a serviceable A/V package given the film’s SOV roots and source materials. Bonus features are aplenty which should please fans of the genre. For Fans Only.
“You further amuse me with your ancient beliefs!”
Exploitation director Joel Wynkoop made a name for himself in the independent horror market starring in films like Truth or Dare: A Critical Madness, Killing Spree, and Dirty Cop No Donut which would become the new classics of Florida exploitation. Wynkkoop’s first feature-length film, Lost Faith would carry with it the same intensity he brought to his acting roles but lacked the unhinged hypersexualized aesthetic that would define his later contributions. I first became aware of Wynkoop’s legacy after reviewing the documentary Blood, Guts & Sunshine which profiled the Florida exploitation scene.
Lost Faith aka Joel D. Wynkoop's Lost Faith follows Steve Nekoda (Joel Wynkoop, Strip Club Slasher), a devoted husband and Chuch Norris fan who must rescue his wife Donna from a human trafficking ring. The feature is a unique mix of martial arts action and religious drama. Wynkoop awkwardly shoehorns Nekoda’s spiritual issues throughout the film using it as a payoff during the final fight scene. It’s an entertaining mix of roundhouse kicks, captive women, and angry dudes swapping haymakers.
The film begins as Steve begrudgingly drives his aspiring model wife Donna (Christine Seisler, Enchanting Tales from Hell) to her next photo shoot. Soon she’s kidnapped and deposited on an island where a sex slavery ring is collecting girls for international buyers. Steve’s anger at the kidnappers isn’t as fierce as his rage against the inept cops handling the case. When Detective Shields (Bill Simms) brushes the enraged husband’s worries aside Steve takes this personally. He takes matters into his own hands to track down his wife and seek revenge. Steve follows clues to the island which reveals Donna’s captors who are led by The Master (David Bardsley, Gentleman Jack), a self-absorbed grandstanding fighter who leads a band of bumbling goons tasked with collecting the girls for sale. His second-in-command is Barnes (David Lurry), a timid soldier of fortune whose kindness for the ladies is overshadowed by the racially insensitive caricature Wynkoop gave him. Yikes.
The moralizing in Lost Faith gets heavy-handed through Walt (Fred Ursini), a member of Steve’s church who constantly urges him to seek God’s help for his problems and come back to the church. Even after Walt bails him out of jail for stealing a car, Steve pushes back against him by reading tragic headlines from the newspaper to justify the absurdity of God. It isn’t until the final battle scene that Steve heeds Walt’s advice. I wouldn’t call this a faith-based film, but if you’re a fan of SOV movies and looking for one with God’s message this may be an excellent fit for you.
Wynkoop uses every opportunity to indulge in his love of martial arts and his desire to showcase whatever skills he can offer the film. Between the fight scenes, however, he pads the film quite a bit giving us lovely shots of Nekoda driving around town or the kidnappers bumbling about their compound. Wynkoop isn’t sure what to do with these side characters but keeps them busy and intimidated by their leader. I love that two of the goons on the island are named Fred and Barney. Look out, Mr. Slate!
Performances from the cast of amateur actors are shaky at best, but Wynkoop assembled an assortment of weirdos wholly committed to their characters come hell or high water. He lets them run through lines fumbling about which gives the scenes an authenticity you wouldn’t expect. Thankfully, those possessing any fight training are given ample time to show off their skills before getting knocked out by Nekoda’s sweet roundhouse kicks.
While lacking the nudity and perverse trappings of a skeezy exploitation film, Lost Faith teeters on the edge of fetish themes with the kidnapped girls and an opening sequence with a busty blonde chased through the woods. Captive girl Sharella’s sexual assault after her escape nearly tips the scales giving me the feeling Wynkoop chose to keep this feature tame.
Overall, Lost Faith is an entertaining B-movie that is worth a watch for fans of martial arts movies or SOV action. If you're looking for a well-made and polished film, this is not it. But if you're looking for a film that is over-the-top, ridiculous, and a lot of fun, then Lost Faith will do the trick.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The All-Region BD-50 disc loads the Saturn’s Core logo before landing on the Main Menu screen with scenes from the film playing adjacent to typical navigation options. The disc is housed in a transparent case with reversible artwork.
Lost Faith arrives on All-Region Blu-ray in the film’s original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The AVC-encoded 1080p transfer is on par with other SOV titles with the presentation focusing more on content than detail. This VHS transfer is full of analog artifacts and limited detail even in close-ups. Colors are washed out with skin tones favoring reddish hues. Black levels are suspect. The noisy image is complimented by the technical limitations of the source materials. Some wear is apparent but the source appears undamaged. Those checking out the Original VHS Version in the bonus features will see a marginal difference between the two presentations.
Lost Faith slams onto Blu-ray with a single 2.0 DTS-HD MA audio track. Dialogue exchanges are reasonably clear throughout the film with sync issues present throughout. Voiceover recordings are well-defined. Music tracks are upbeat showcasing heavy synth work which gets the blood pumping for the action scenes.
Lost Faith aspires to the heights of those zany 80s martial arts actioners, but with its no-budget production and amateur actors all it has to fall on is Wynkoop's passion and roundhouse kicks. It’s an entertaining mix of themes that will appeal to SOV fans and those delving into Florida exploitation films. The Blu-ray from Saturn’s Core offers a solid A/V package considering the film’s SOV roots. Bonus features are extensive including an alternate cut, short films, and loads of behind-the-scenes footage. For Fans Only.