Friday, June 26, 2009

In short: Lurkers (1988)

Cathy (Dana Nardelli) has a fucked-up childhood in a brownstone somewhere in New York. When she is not enduring nightly visits by a bunch of ugly ghost or is abused by her mother with an iron, she's followed by a weird child (Lauren Ruane) who uses mind control hoodoo to bring people to kill her. Sometimes, an equally weird woman (Eva Baumann) gets into a staring contest with the ghost child and saves Cathy from the dangers of skipping rope strangulation. The poor girl's problems end with her mother murdering her father and then trying to kill her. Somehow, the nasty woman ends up with the knife in her chest herself.

Fifteen years later things seem to have turned around for the now grown-up Cathy (Christine Moore). She works as an enthusiastic if not successful cellist and is eloped to the photographer Don (Gary Warner). It all looks perfect, so why have the bad dreams about her childhood started again? And what exactly are the strange things Don is doing behind Cathy's back about? Is he "just" sleeping around as is his duty as a sleazebag photographer or is something more sinister going on?

These questions will actually be answered when Don drags Cathy to a party his business partner Monica (Marina Taylor) is giving in a building that turns out to be the same brownstone our heroine grew up in.

You can read a lot about how bad the horror films with which exploitation and sex film specialist Roberta Findlay ended her directing career are supposed to be, but Lurkers at least isn't half bad. The film does have some of the hallmarks of on the cheap filmmaking - especially a sloppy script in need of tightening up, a terrible synthie soundtrack and rather broad acting, but the film's crudeness of affect actually works to its advantage.

I found some scenes like Cathy's strange short odyssey through an artificial nightmare New York of Westside Story remnants and sledgehammer killers effectively disturbing in a way the memory of old childhood fears are disturbing. You know it's all bullshit, yet you still have a small, discomforting feeling somewhere in your stomach. While much of it consists of ideas cobbled together from more accomplished movies (Sergio Martino's All The Colours Of The Dark for example), Lurkers uses these ideas with workable blunt force by giving them a frisson of urban paranoia. The film's themes aren't all that well thought through, but they are potent nonetheless, and they possibly feel a little more dangerous because they aren't calculated too well.

What also bears mention is that Roberta Findlay was a hell of a photographer and editor, obviously hampered by low budgets and bad production conditions, yet still doing the best with the things she had, arriving at a nearly documentary feel, a naturalistic look on New York that can suddenly dissolve into a backyard version of surrealism.

No comments: