THE LURKER *** USA 2019 Dir: Eric Liberacki. 80 mins
An observant audience member would shake their head; perhaps even shut this picture off upon finding out that’s it is about a bunch of high school theatre students who are being bumped off by a serial killer at Crystal Lake High. Some may solider on to find how the kills are handled or how well the tank tops fit. Ultimately, a film goer makes of it what they will. If they dismiss THE LURKER (2019), though, they may be forgetting sometimes it’s the journey, not the destination.
What Director Eric Liberacki and writer John Lerchen have done in THE LURKER (2019) is craft a story with a miscast lead female actor and stuck a surprise ending on. The miscast female actor is Scout Taylor-Compton, playing high school student Taylor, who is the lead in a high school production of Romeo and Juliet.
Scout Taylor-Compton looks out of place. You can see it in her face and around her eyes that she is older than who she is trying to be. No amount of makeup can hide age. It also in her voice and speech patterns when compared to the other people on screen. This really highlights the difference. Physically, she is petite so she fits with the actual teenagers playing their age in the picture. Michael Emery, who plays the obnoxious Miles Little and is the student Romeo, is a giant compared to Taylor. Scout Taylor’s biography states she,”…is a huge fan of horror films, especially those featuring Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and Chucky.” What actor would not want to play something you love when it is offered to you? Even if it is not the right time in life?
The opening obligatory late for school / wake up breakfast scene offers Taylor and let us meet the parents who deliver all the right cliché lines of trying to keep a family together. Taylor counters with the rebellious student look right down to the oversized flannel coat she wears.
Sexuality in the Horror film is blatant or totally absent. The best films make it ambiguous for the audience and this comes across in an interesting moment between Taylor and her parents. Her father gives her a slight leer and asks if she is “going to ride with me,” as in get a drive to school. Taylor looks at him with an uneasy expression and says “No, I will walk.” Looking beyond the usual not-wanting-to-be-seen in the parents’ car going to school feelings there was something understated in that moment: something hidden. Considering the role a car plays later on, coupled with the choice of language, sets up a sexual connotation to the scene.
THE LURKER (2019) features many fine performances of the high school theatre people. Rapid dialogue and distinct personalities come forward. The students talk openly during class about sexual relations with teachers, the second reference with first being the ‘ride me’ idea. One teacher, drama teacher Arthur Scott (Bruce Spielbauer), looks like Canadian film maker David Cronenberg. Arthur Scott is acidic, patronizing and lives his art. He fancies that he has the power to make or break potential careers. One scene features him verbally ripping his cast for mistakes. Taylor gets verbally destroyed. Scott threatens to not write the recommendation letter to Julliard School for her, yet in the same moment he says he thinks she has enormous talent.
Unfortunately, there’s a masked murderer on the loose and he seems hell-bent on certain people associated with the play. The deaths start to happen and some of them are brutal, including one in the first moments of the picture with Mrs. Wilson, played by a completely transformed Domenica Cameron-Scorsese. Dialogue is the key here and Wilson says she has not told anyone as the killer approaches her. The resultant attack and screams that occur with the editing cut away to moments of Romeo and Juliet on stage at the high school make for a moment, albeit cliché in its effect. Romeo and Juliet features principal characters who all die. The kills in THE LURKER (2019) feature an excruciatingly creepy squishing sound which adds to the atmosphere; an atmosphere that also features plenty of blood and gore.
Review by Terry Sherwood