A gruesome murder has brought a looming shadow over a high school. However, the shadow is not great enough to thwart the spirits of a group of thespian high school seniors in the throes of their last Shakespearian performances of the year of Romeo and Juliet. Determined to excel, the peer admired Taylor Wilson keeps her college acceptance hopes high on her well-received nightly performances as Juliet, but when a terrible secret involving Taylor begins to circulate through the school body, friendship and enemy ties begin become taut with tension. Simultaneously, those with knowledge of Taylor’s secret are being killed off one-by-one by a deranged killer in a black, long nose masquerade mask.
“The Lurker” is a 2019 American slasher film from the first attempt at horror-director Eric Liberacki, whose legs have been grounded in short film cinematography work over the past 2010 decade with “The Pale Man” being his sole feature length credit. Liberacki’s sophomore directorial is written by the “The Pale Man” screenwriter and short film director, John Lerchen, who’s scribes the slasher version of HBO’s “Big Little Lies” starring hormone-driven and backstabbing high school seniors on a thespian high. “The Lurker” re-imagines the high school dramatics to further dig into taboo subtexts worthy of a Jerry Springer talk show episode and interweaves a non-linear narrative, filled with flashback mystery, due suspicion, and the utmost desire to know what secret Taylor Wilson is being exploited against her preservability. “The Lurker” is a joint venture between John Lerchen’s production company, Forever Safe Productions, and Silva Shots.
One thing, right off the bat, that heedlessly seems erroneous for the story is casting Scout Taylor-Compton in the lead role of Taylor Wilson. And here’s why. From 2007 to 2019, the now 30-year-old actress has played a high school student in Rob Zombie’s remake of “Halloween” and in “The Lurker.” While Taylor-Compton is a natural beauty who seemingly defies all physics of aging and her performance is solid, the once Laurie Strode portraying actress from Long Beach, California emits a now mature glow in life and rehashing another character in a high school slasher is ultimately beneath and behind her. Aside from her counterpart co-star Michael Emery being roughly the same age, the rest of Taylor Wilson’s entourage are in their internship-status, post-college years of the early 20s, including Kali Skatchke, Casey Tutton, Isabel Thompson, Emmaline Skillicorn, and Marissa Banker. Juxtaposing against a young cast, as a sort of out with the old and in with new or to brighten with short strands of genre highlights, is the minor roles and cameos of recognizable faces and film royalty, such as Ari Lehman (“Friday the 13th), Naomi Grossman (“American Horror Story: Asylum”), and, most surprisingly, Domenica Cameron-Scorsese, the daughter of Martin Scorsese, playing Taylor’s mother. The cast rounds out with Charles Johnston, Rikki Lee Travolta, Eddie Huchro, Bruce Spielbauer, Roy Rainey, Josh Morris, and Walter S. Bernard.
“The Lurker” has textbook aspects going for it in the case of an above par production value of fancy editing and set locations, a cache of young and seasoned talented actors, and a story with a twist ending, but that nagging itch gnawing from the back of my skull, slowly inching one molecule at a time, toward the core of my brain informs me that the Liberacki’s slasher misses the intended mark if only by a fingertip attached to a severed pinky. The story tries to sell an alternate version of itself that becomes inane from predictability at the very starting gate and continues trucking an exemplum despite giving away too much, too early. Surrounding the conundrum of calamity building to the potential proverb of shit hitting the fan is a paradigmatic slasher flick with a masked killer murdering toward the technique of a final girl narrative. Yet, “The Lurker’s” kills weren’t terribly flashy and were really met with an uninspired creativity to assist in drawing and sustaining captivation of a ruthless assailant over an abundance the teenage melodramatics, which essentially ran amok. We really shouldn’t have been surprised at the narrative’s untroubled tone because the first kill in the opening scene was inside the school and the school was open the very next day; in today’s day and age, school would have been closed for the rest of the week, if not the rest of the academic year, for bereavement and investigation.
Come down with a serious case of stage fright with “The Lurker” coming to DVD home video and now out on various digital platforms, including renting and buying options on Amazon, distributed by Indican Pictures. The visual and audio review portion for this release will not be covered since a screener copy was provided; however, the DVD will be presented in the original widescreen presentation of an aspect ratio of 2.39:1. With a check disc, there were also no bonus material to review as well as no bonus material before the credits and before or after the credits. John Lerchen and Eric Liberacki’s first crack at full length horror is a win in my book with a complex web streamed of lies, deceits, and snuff, but, with a little fine tuning, “The Lurker” could have sheered to a bigger, better 80 minutes.