82 min | 2015 | (USA) | Rob Michels (Hole in the Wall)
With an opening that immediately creates an observational vibe, The Lurking is a fun throwback to 1980s horror, capturing all the qualities that made the era such a popular one in American horror. The story begins with two roadie slackers, referred to in the credits as Wasteoid 1 and Wasteoid 2, who have taken to the woods “to trip balls.” Unbeknownst to them, a serial killer is wreaking havoc in those same woods and it isn’t long before he has the two drug-addled men within his sights.
We soon discover that the perspective from which we are watching events unfold is not the point of view of an impartial observer: we’re looking through the eyes of the killer. By having the camera consistently adopt the point of view of the killer, the audience becomes an active participant in the murders and the end result is more intimate than one would expect.
The Lurking is a carefully constructed pastiche of American horror that offers new twists on some predictable tropes. For instance, we get the obligatory tracking shot of the distressed female fleeing from the killer. But instead of her being scantily clad and buxom, she is fully dressed and looks, according to the Wasteoids, as if she could be your sister. This is an effective nod to films of the era in which the girl next door was far more likely to be in jeopardy than was her saucier counterpart. This twist helps to create a stronger sense of dread because it makes the violence accessible instead of removed.
The film also does an effective job of keeping its sendups firmly tied to the 80s. Not only is the predictable shot of a topless woman done in such a way as to inspire more laughs than illicit titillation, but dialogue such as the drunk camper muttering “God damn fucking Ronald Reagan” for no explicable reason serves up some real 1980s era campiness. But the real standout in the film is the variety of creative kills, my favorite of which involved a stick of dynamite to the kisser.
Jason Phelps and Shayne White, as Wasteoid 1 and Wasteoid 2, respectively, do a good job of making their characters bumbling but likeable. Their performances anchor the film and help to bypass some moments of stilted dialogue. Yes, there is a somewhat predictable undercurrent of homophobia that is played for laughs, but considering the era from which the film is drawing, it feels unfortunately authentic.
Given that this is low-budget horror at its finest, there are elements of the filmmaking that may be jarring to audiences only familiar with big-budget fare. The hand-held camera segments, particularly in the beginning, are jarring even if they do work to create a distinct and menacing atmosphere. But the camera work becomes a non-issue once the film reaches the ten-minute mark.
The only real criticism I have of the film involves the child who appears fairly early in the film. Without giving too much away, I was disappointed that the film did not push the boundaries of this scene. And while the reason for this decision becomes clear in the film’s final moments, it doesn’t quite reflect the 80s sensibility so evident in the rest of the film. Given that this is the decade that gave us children being run over by tractors (Pet Sematary), emulsified via a killer mask (Halloween 3: Season of the Witch), and digested to the point of melting (The Blob), the decision feels like a cop out.
The Lurking is a fantastic example of what low-budget horror has to offer horror fans looking for a more intimate journey into the macabre. Screaming Like Banshees is offering up The Lurking on limited edition VHS and you can grab your copy here.
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