April 10, 2020 The Lurker (Movie Review)
Horror icon Scout-Taylor Compton stars in the high school slasher The Lurker. Indican Pictures delivers the Horror-Thriller to Digital and DVD on Tuesday, April 14th, 2020.
Popular and talented actress Taylor (Taylor-Compton: Halloween 2007, Feral 2017) lands the role of Juliet in her high school’s performance of Romeo and Juliet. With the support of her doting mother (Domenica Cameron-Scorsese: Cape Fear 1991, The Age of Innocence 1993), as well as mom’s boy-toy Will (Charles Johnston: Mysteries at the Museum series, Pieces of Talent 2014), she plunges headlong into her role. Despite having to star alongside playboy Miles (Michael Emery: Bone Tomahawk 2015, American Wisper 2020), the teen hopes that her performance will earn her a place at Juilliard come fall.
All eyes are focused on Crystal Lake High’s performance of the Shakespeare classic when counselor Grace Fisher (Naomi Grossman: American Horror Story series, 1BR 2019) is murdered. With the students, staff, and community grieving, the drama troupe—or, more accurately, their teacher Arthur Scott (Bruce Spielbauer: Qwerty 2012, Proxy 2013)—opt to dedicate their final performance to Fisher.
Afterward, needing to let loose, the cast throw themselves a party at Miles’ house with plenty of beer and blunts. As additional bodies begin to pile up, it becomes abundantly clear that someone is lurking in the shadows and haunting this theater production. Could it be the creepy janitor, Drew (Eddie Huchro: 8 of Diamonds 2006, Dog Jack 2010), or is it one of their own, intent upon delivering the eeriest performance yet?
Clocking in at 73 minutes, The Lurker was directed by Eric Liberacki (Spoiled Fruit 2016, The Audition short 2020) and written by John Lerchen (Dearest Jane 2015, The Pale Man 2017). The film also features the acting talents of Isabel Thompson (Vignette short 2016, Chicago P.D. series), Kali Skatchke (Indie Film is Alive! series, Hot Summer Daze mini-series), Emmaline Skillicorn (Sun King 2020), Josh Morris (Queen Sugar series), Walter S. Bernard (Rampage 2018, Spider-Man: Far from Home 2019), Rikki Lee Travolta (Crime Fiction 2007, Upstaged series), Adam Huss (Power series, Painkillers 2018), Ari Lehman (Friday the 13th 1980, Easter Holocaust 2020), Casey Tutton (Chicago Med series, Proven Innocent series), and more.
Billed as a Horror-Thriller, the film definitely fits this generic billing with its attempts at thrills and chills, as well as sufficient blood splatter. Clearly aimed at a teen demographic, The Lurker is likely to appease these viewers with its off-kilter humor, easily digestible horror scenes, and a plot that moves quickly. However, the experience is not without its flaws, many of which are likely to put off some of the seasoned Horror aficionados in the crowd.
To put it gently, the movie’s biggest flaws are its bizarre casting and its generic screenplay. The intention here appears to be something along the lines of 1997’s Scream 2: kids in a drama production end up being slaughtered by a killer in disguise. Instead of Ghostface, however, The Lurker’s villain dons a plague doctor mask and utilizes a multitude of weapons to slice, dice, and beat his victims to death. Considering Scream 2 was arguably the worst in that franchise, this is certainly not the best premise to use for inspiration, but it’s something.
Building onto its flawed foundation, The Lurker also exhibits some odd casting choices. As the entire story surrounds a high school theater group, it is truly bizarre that Compton would be cast in the lead role as a 17 or 18-year-old young woman. A beautiful and talented actress, Compton, no matter her hair color, is simply not believable as a high school student. Similarly, it requires a great desire to suspend disbelief in order to see Emery as a teen and Cameron-Scorsese as the mother of Compton. While no one would question any of the three’s acting chops—they are all wonderful in their roles here and elsewhere—audience members are very apt to question the believability of the actors in these particular assignments. An issue that, sadly, could have easily been fixed with slight tweaks to the script (i.e. Cameron-Scorsese is Compton’s older sister and their parents have both disappeared, and the students are in college rather than high school).
Yes, this is a bit of nitpicking but it’s a hard hurdle for a blasé plot to overcome. Considering that, at best, this story is so predictable that you can solve the mystery just by viewing the film’s two-minute trailer, moviegoers are going to need something more if The Lurker is going to achieve its ultimate potential. In this, it almost seems that the entire production is the victim of a lack of attention to detail; an attentiveness that might have helped to morph the movie from banal Horror-Thriller into a fun, nostalgic and noteworthy Slasher.
Hands down, the saving grace of The Lurker are the performances of several of its talented cast members, with Compton leading the way. As a mysterious young woman with a secret, Compton’s Taylor is initially likable, one of the strongest personalities in her friend group and clearly a talented actress. The meta aspect of the film works in Compton’s favor, allowing her to show a bit of her acting range in a largely flat role. As her on-screen mother, Cameron-Scorsese is adorable, lovable, a soft-spoken mother figure who looks like one of the kids.
Sadly, the exceptional talents of Grossman and Lehman are given bit parts that barely allow audience-goers any time with their characters. Grossman’s Grace is merely cannon fodder, though she does provide perhaps the best death scene of the film. Meanwhile, Lehman’s wacky Doctor Stratton receives equally limited on-screen time, and yet he shines in his memorable performance of the doctor with a massive personality. Also delivering short but impressive moments on-screen are the witty Bernard, as Vinnie, and Travolta’s completely humorous portrayal of Miles’ rifle-toting, drunk dad, Ross.
With all of this said, it’s admittedly difficult to take a concept like The Lurker and make it into a must-see offering. Flawed from its infancy, the film offers too few thrills and lacks in truly satisfying blood spills. However, it would be unfair to write this off as one to simply pass over, as its short run-time creates an easily-digested romp. As long as viewers are willing to openly suspend their disbelief and simply enjoy the ride for what it is, The Lurker is entertaining enough for at least one viewing. So break out the quarantine-corn, Cryptic Rock gives The Lurker 3 of 5 stars.