EVIL Watches from the Shadows. “The Lurker” reviewed! (Indican Pictures / Screener)


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.

Rent or Buy “The Lurker” on Prime Video!!!

Evocation of EVIL in “The Girl In the Crawlspace” reviewed! (ITN Distribution / DVD)


Jill escapes from the grip of a kidnapping-serial killer who kept her confined in a crawlspace under the house. Her courage brings lethal justice to the captor when the local marshal shoots and kills him upon confrontation. Jill struggles to reintegrate back into her local community in the aftermath, sleeping unconfined in the outdoors and withdrawing herself for social interaction, including from her weekly role playing game with friends. When Kristen moves back into her hometown from college, she aims to set up her therapy practice to assist families impacted by the serial killer as well as Jill by special request from the marshal, but Kristen’s rocky relationship with her substance abusive, off-Hollywood screenwriting husband on the mend drags out Jill’s much needed treatment. With Jill and Kristen preoccupied, they’re oblivious to the concealed threat that plots the next terrorizing exploit of kidnapping and tormenting young, beautiful women.

From under the grubby wooden floorboards to the strategic folding table of a role playing game, “The Girl in the Crawlspace” is the Midwest direct-to-video suspense thriller that tackles post-traumatic stress and marital strife while submersed in a looming trail left by a notorious mass murderer, written and helmed by first time director John Oak Dalton. Dalton, who has penned several low-budget grindhouse titles over the last decade and half, including titles such as “Among Us,” “Sex Machine,” and “Jurassic Prey,” returns once again to the genre with the repercussions of Podunk psychopath upon small town America, filmed in Indiana and release in 2018 hitting the ground running with film festival circuits. Indie filmmaker Henrique Couto, schlock horror director of “Scarewaves” and “Marty Jenkins and the Vampire Bitches,” signs on as producer, stepping back from his usual productional duties, and letting an occasional collaborator Dalton to completely engulf himself as the omnipotent auteur. Midwest Film Ventures serves as the production company, shot in Farmland, Indiana.

Erin R. Ryan has continuously sustained a low level hover on the indie horror radar after taking her in Dustin Mill’s “Bath Salt Zombies,” based on the Miami incident based on a naked man eating someone’s face induced by being high on bath salts, and the gooey-gory body horror, “Skinless,” that’s also a Mills production. Ryan expands her portfolio outside physical horror with Jill, a traumatized recluse derived from her abduction and torture, as a subdued component that’s contrary to previous roles, but Ryan capitalizes the opportunity of a scared kitten, recoiling from public gatherings, and slowly and silently emerging back into society while recalling chilling moments as the story progresses. However, there’s difficult pinpointing the head lead as the protagonist roles are shared between Ryan and depicted married couple, a pair of more Henrique Couto casted actors, in Joni Durian and John Bradley Hambrick as Kristen and her husband, John. Between the three, chemistry clicks better than cooking meth in a chemist’s unsanctioned laboratory and offer ample contention without the attending killer’s presence hanging over the whole town’s head. Rounding out the remaining cast is Chelsi Kern (“Scarecrow Count”), Joe Kidd (“Ouija Room”), Jeff Kirkendall (“Sharkenstein”), Clifford Lowe (“Scarecrow County”), and re-introducing Tom Cherry as the good old boy town officer, Marshal Woody.

With a title like “The Girl in the Crawlspace,” I would be remiss if I didn’t say there were some expectations of bodily torture, psychological terror, and teeth-clinching tension when sitting down to watch. The hype was high considering the post-after-post amount of positivity for “The Girl in the Crawlspace” on my Twitter feed. The catchy name and optimistic comments provided real temptation, but Dalton steers in another direction, the what follows in the state of everlasting shock and the reliving of moments seared into your psyche. The direction wasn’t as expected, but that’s necessary a bad thing. “The Girl in the Crawlspace” is exposition heavy with considerable amount of movie referencing peppered with some current event topics, such as the brief mentioning of killing of migrant children, throughout and continuously wanders off point, strolling more into Kristen and John’s crumbling marriage. Jill, the supposed centerpiece of the story, feels more like an afterthought, despite being the “girl” in “The Girl in the Crawlspace.” The cantankerous marriage supposedly jeopardizes those personally involved in Jill’s well-being as John exploits Jill’s idiosyncratic experiences from being a captive by turning them into inspirational junk food for his fading screenwriting career, but the catalyst incident doesn’t stick, becoming more of a weak opening for a more pronounced return of Jill’s haunting past.

From ITN Distribution and Mill Creek Entertainment, “The Girl in the Crawlspace” lands onto a not rated DVD home video release. The single layer DVD is presented in a full frame widescreen of an 1.78:1 aspect ratio. In a framing sense, Henrique Couto’s cinematography distinctly places small town in a spectrum view that highlights the soybean fields and farms, the rustic brick infrastructures, and the simplicities of a relaxed, old-fashioned town, using some drone shots to expose the green belt greenery. For an indie feature, the agreeable bitrate has a frank, clear image despite some consistent overexposure that softens details, especially on faces in the outside scenes. The Dolby Digital stereo 2.0 mix has also agreeable dual channel output. Some of the dialogue scenes suffer through an echo, but for the majority, the lines have clarity and unobstructed by ambient layers or the soundtrack. The depth discloses some distant ambiguities, such as in a train shot that’s not rendered in the background as it should, but the amount of range is palatable. English SHD subtitles are available. The only bonus features available on the release are the theatrical trailer and an commentary with producer Henrique Couto and director John Oak Dalton regarding their history together and going through the shot techniques as well as touching upon the actors. The road to recovery is paved in nightmares, psychological terror, and Midwest psychopaths in “The Girl in the Crawlspace,” but pitches away from the principal concern that turns second fiddle to one struggling screenwriter’s difficult assimilation into rural life while simultaneously rethreading a floundering livelihood and a tattered marriage.

Own “The Girl in the Crawlspace” on DVD

Dead Parents Create Good and Evil Children. “The Orphan Killer” review!

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Audrey Miller is your borderline, but overall good, Catholic woman, but the Saint Michael’s Orphanage dance teacher withholds a dark secret from her past. Audrey, herself, is an orphan along with her estranged brother, Marcus. At the age of 6-years old, Marcus took the brutal death of their parents the hardest, transforming a young innocent boy into an emotionless and destructive shell of his former self and while they attended the orphanage where Audrey currently teaches, Marcus suffered at the hands of wrathful Nuns hellbent on forcing Marcus to repent for the sins he’s committed. Years have gone by and Marcus, donning the Nuns’ gifted mask to frighten other children away from him, has been confined to a neglected psych ward, but, now, Marcus has found an escape and seeks to hunt down his beloved sister, trapping her inside Saint Michael’s, to relay a message that blood never abandons blood unless it’s fatally punctured with a blade.
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Matt Farnsworth’s 2011 “The Orphan Killer” is a cold-hearted, slaugtherfest, aiming to reap the Catholic church of sinners by committing the ultimate sin. Serial killer, Marcus Miller, becomes this generation’s misunderstood maniac, being the right hand of God and smiting blasphemous individuals in a one-night stint of blood drenched dirty work. Being the sophomore feature from writer-director Farnsworth, there’s plenty to be impressed with here from the setting up victim characters and the killing-ground stage to quickly canonizing Marcus after learning the atrocities his victims; Marcus blurs into the realm of anti-hero in a twisted sense of the slasher genre with religious undertones – such as Audrey wearing a barbed wire crown of thorns. He’s very familiar to that of iconic genre staples such as Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers, yet Marcus Miller’s unique origins background and murderous methodology doesn’t share with the already established grisliness. If Farnsworth is willing, this serial killer could be expanded upon with such a rich backstory.
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Story wise, there are familiarities toward that of Michael Myers’ background with the bloodlines. Instead of Laurie Strobe being related to her coupled murderer, Audrey, played by stunning beauty Diane Foster, has, unbeknownst to her good fortune, to her still breathing psychopathic brother, Marcus, portrayed by David Backus. Both Foster and Backus have previously worked together on another Matt Farnsworth written-directed feature, his breakout indie film, “Iowa” in 2005 that also starred Rosanna Arquette {David Cronenberg’s “Crash”) and Muse Watson (“From Dusk till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money”) and have great cat-and-mouse chemistry through love-and-hate sibling rivalry. Farnsworth also co-stars his own flick as Audrey’s cop boyfriend who becomes mixed up in the mess when Audrey doesn’t come home next morning. Unlike Audrey and Marcus, Officer Mike Hunt – yes, Mike Hunt – lacks substance and is portrayed a bit of a wild card when Audrey goes into dire stress. The cast rounds out with Karen Young, James McCaffrey, Charlotte Maier, Spencer List, Dana DeVestern, and John Savage.
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The realistic, sometimes over the top, practical effects make the scene in a welcoming glorified shower of gore splatter. Marcus Miller’s killer tactics vary from victim-to-victim, whereas some slashers maintain one particular kill setting, making “The Orphan Killer” eye-catching and extremely engaging. The unbelievable production value for an offbeat slasher that’s so profane to religion temples and other holy aspect shouldn’t go unnoticed and I’m not just speaking highly solely of the special effects. The structural bones of a cathedral church setting and the amount of extras used in well choreographed dance recital and Miller kids’ flashback scenes show the committed financial backing put to work in Farnsworth’s film. Farnsworth edits his own work that’s slightly erratic at times, but overall successful with the action that’s involved and the displaying the severity of splicing together great practical kill scenes. I’d say his style is certainly earthy and sometimes there are glimpses of channelling iconic directors.
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Produced mainly by Farnsworth’s company, entitled simply enough Matt Farnsworth Films, in association with Full Fathom 5, “The Orphan Killer” has rightfully found a friend at the Reel Gore Releasing home distribution label with a Hi-Def 1080p Blu-ray and DVD combo release. The 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation sharply defines details, especially in the blacks, and does well with desaturating the hues to give it a gritty, dirty appearance that compliments the abandoned sections of Saint Michael’s. Two audio options are available, an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2 channel; the 5.1 delivers a heart pounding score, but the soundtrack by Bullet Tooth releasing, featuring a slew of hardcore metal bands, oversteps into some dialogue sequences. However, Ventana’s cover of “Cry Little Sister” kicks off right after the opening credits; an early sure sign of good things to ahead. Bonus features include a “behind the Murder:” an exclusive video diary, teaser trailer, theatrical trailer, music clip, and a slideshow. “The Orphan Killer” has religious metaphors under a sacrilege of brutality and unleashes a retroesque Renaissance slasher for modern day terror.

Buy “The Orphan Killer” at Amazon.