Studio: Indican Pictures
Director: Eric Liberacki
Writer: John Lerchen
Producer: John Lerchen, Wynona Ying Li
Stars: Scout Taylor-Compton, Naomi Grossman, Michael Emery, Domenica Cameron-Scorsese, Ari Lehman, Casey Tutton, Rikki Lee Travolta, Adam Huss
A masked murderer stalks a troupe of high school drama students who are hiding a secret that could expose an explosive scandal.
I don¡¯t know when ¡°The Lurker¡± was filmed. Unless it was earlier than 2010, which is when Scout Taylor-Compton appeared as teenage Lita Ford in ¡°The Runaways¡± as well as the last time she was carded while buying beer, then it¡¯s really past time for the actress to still be playing high school girls. Just because she played young Laurie Strode in Rob Zombie¡¯s ¡°Halloween¡± (review here) doesn¡¯t mean she can squeeze into similar role requirements 10+ years later.
¡°The Lurker¡¯s¡± copyright dates it to 2019, the year Scout Taylor-Compton turned 30. So you¡¯re looking at a simple fix where graduating the setting from high school to college would assassinate the hippopotamus in the room without making a material difference to the story. Taylor-Compton can pass for twenty-something. Seventeen? There¡¯s suspension of disbelief and then there¡¯s obliviously ignoring reality.
Aged out or not, Scout Taylor-Compton is still the best thing about ¡°The Lurker,¡± a traditional teen slasher that doesn¡¯t have many good things going for it at all. Taylor-Compton plays the conveniently named Taylor, an aspiring actress who hopes her performance in ¡°Romeo and Juliet¡± at Crystal Lake High (groan) will punch her ticket to Juilliard. Unfortunately, there¡¯s a masked murderer on the loose and he seems hell-bent on offing certain someones associated with the play.
There¡¯s more to the mystery than that, but good luck keeping events straight since the movie¡¯s editor has no idea how to coherently cut a narrative to incorporate flashbacks. ¡°The Lurker¡± starts with a pre-title sequence where the masked man kills a guidance counselor while Taylor performs for a packed auditorium that¡¯s unusually captivated by a drama club production of Shakespeare. After opening credits, Taylor then wakes in a hospital where she¡¯s awkwardly attended to by ¡®First Jason¡¯ Ari Lehman, who makes for a believable doctor about as well as Scout Taylor-Compton works as a teenager.
The doctor prods Taylor to remember what happened before a collapse we didn¡¯t witness, but might think occurred onstage since she was last seen ¡°dead¡± as Juliet. The camera then fades into a scene where Taylor starts another school day. Logic leads viewers to assume the three scenes witnessed thus far are chronological, i.e. play/murder, hospital/doctor, memory/school. It definitely doesn¡¯t make sense for the doctor to prompt Taylor¡¯s recollection when the prologue already placed us inside her past, although it turns out that¡¯s exactly what happened.
If that sounds like one nit being picked, don¡¯t worry. There are plenty more where that came from.
¡°The Lurker¡± repeatedly beats around the bush of a supposedly secret twist by randomly jamming in quick shots featuring something scandalous from Taylor¡¯s past. Except without any effects like fogged frame edges or a change of color, these spontaneous cutaways look like editing errors instead of the flashbacks they¡¯re meant to be. Besides that, the revelation everyone refuses to discuss directly is such a predictable plot development that ¡°The Lurker¡± mutilates its flow without receiving any benefit of suspenseful surprise.
Wonky editing isn¡¯t exclusive to jarring timeline transitions either. Standard sequencing gets in on the act too.
One scene has three girls and a guy fleeing from the killer at a house party. Establishing shots, some of which feature daylight despite taking place well into the evening, next show the three girls arriving at the school, because they think one of their missing friends went there for some reason.
Suddenly reunited with the guy who ran with them, everyone then appears inside a kitchen that any average viewer might confusedly think is still part of the house. I guess because there¡¯s a red plastic tray on a countertop, we¡¯re supposed to know they made it to the cafeteria, even though the immediately preceding shot is of the girls running into locked metal grating barring hallway access. It¡¯s wild that anyone thought putting shots in this order made sense for storytelling. Then again, we are talking about setups where students seem shockingly unconcerned about crime scene tape all over their school, authorities don¡¯t even close the building following a faculty member¡¯s murder anyway, and kids ridiculously insist on splitting up for vague reasons despite knowing a killer is loose. Making sense isn¡¯t ¡°The Lurker¡¯s¡± strong suit.
Other than Scout Taylor-Compton, acting is stiffly amateurish. The teen girls are okay, but the adult men have wooden personalities equating them to oversized ventriloquist dummies. The problem starts with the silly script¡¯s obvious obsession with creating red herrings that are little more than goofy guppies. One man polishes his shotgun in plain sight because what better time for firearm maintenance than while your son hosts a party? A kindly custodian suddenly switches to sinister when he suspiciously mutters, ¡°break a leg¡± after Taylor turns her back. It¡¯s hilariously ham-fisted.
Referencing his coworker¡¯s brutal death, I thought Taylor¡¯s teacher was passionlessly delivering lines like ¡°what a loss¡± to establish a possible cold heart for his character. Regular dialogue is delivered in the same dulled monotone though. This isn¡¯t a creative choice, it¡¯s just bad acting.
The same goes for the person playing Taylor¡¯s drama instructor. It initially appears like a possibly conscious decision when he adds pregnant pauses while stretching out sentences to seem like a stuffed-shirt snoot. The more he does it however, the technique reveals itself to be a low level actor¡¯s trouble simply speaking words he¡¯s struggling to remember.
¡°The Lurker¡± isn¡¯t the worst self-produced DTV slasher I¡¯ve ever seen, but it certainly is bizarrely cut, cast, and conceived. Some effort exists here and there, just not in scenes where poorly recorded audio makes muffled voices hard to hear or poorly plotted beats leave things like unattended scalpels lying around hospital rooms. The next time a project like this comes Scout Taylor-Compton¡¯s way, she ought to stop convincing herself she can still do them and start wondering why she keeps saying yes.
Review Score: 35