Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Lurkers (1987)

... aka: Home Sweet Home

Directed by:
Roberta Findlay

Little Cathy is stuck with one mean mama. Mad her little girl isn't appreciative of the muck she's serving up for din-din, mom gnashes her teeth and threatens "You really want a beating, don't you?;" adding "If you don't eat I'll have THEM take you away!" When that fails to get her to eat and she refuses to go outside to play because she's scared of whatever THEM is outside their apartment, mom burns her with a hot iron and throws her out, anyway. Cathy does manage to make it out of the building OK but a little ghost girl shows up and makes the other girls she starts playing with strangle her with a jump rope. Thankfully, a woman wearing heavy eye make-up shows up to scare the evil little girl off. Later that night, Cathy is surrounded by a bunch of "lurkers" (ghosts) saying "Help meeeee!" Fifteen years later, a now-grown Cathy (Christine Moore) is a cellist still haunted by her childhood... and still haunted by the ghost girl, who attempts to mow her over with a cab as she's getting ready to cross the street, Thankfully, heavy eye make-up lady pops in just in time to pull her back up off the sidewalk. So what we're dealing with here is basically your standard struggle between the forces of good and evil, with the little ghost girl representing dangerous, evil forces bent on making Cathy's life a living hell, and eye make-up lady being a guardian angel of sorts who's around to protect her.

Cathy is engaged to be married to Bob (Gary Warner), a successful photographer who co-owns a modeling agency with his bitchy female partner Monica (Marina Taylor), but trying to live as normal a life as possible is starting to become an impossible task. Her nighttime world is full of bad dreams about the night her mother stabbed her father to death and chased her around with a bloody knife (geesh!) and her daytime world isn't much better, with the ghost girl popping in from time to time to either scare her or attempt to kill her. Cathy feels that her brother Phil (Gil Newsom), who's now working as a priest, blames her for the deaths of their parents and she's conflicted about whether or not she should even invite him to the wedding. Her psychic friend Rita (Nancy Groff) tells her not to bother during a tarot card session where she also calls Cathy "prehistoric" for wanting to quit her job and have babies after she gets married! Of course, Rita is correct about the brother. He has no interest in Cathy, her life or her upcoming wedding. Bob tries to calm Cathy down by telling her, "Maybe your brother is a queer and he hates women."

Bob isn't just lousy when it comes to psychoanalyzing people, he's also lousy at being in a committed relationship. He picks up bartender / aspiring model Sally (Carissa Channing) for a little fling and from all indications has something going on with Monica as well. Cathy ends up falling asleep while reading "Prisoners of Childhood" in her bubble bath and envisions her mother barging in and trying to drown her. On the way toward a party, Bob and Cathy encounter her guardian angel, who warns "Don't go home" before disappearing from the backseat of their car. And wouldn't ya know it, but the party Bob and Cathy are headed to is in the same building Cathy grew up in. She refuses to go inside and, while waiting by the door, she's suddenly chased by a psycho wielding a sledge hammer (who ends up smashing a woman's head in), encounters a punk gang and finds a dead chicken hanging upside down in a graveyard! All of these things may actually be happening, or they may be hallucinations being drummed up the cursed building in order to scare Cathy inside. Either way, it manages to force her in... and what awaits her there is something that may explain why her entire life - and this entire movie! - has been so freaking weird.

Despite some bad acting, rough editing, often inappropriate music and a confusing storyline (which is explained - at least somewhat - by the finale), Lurkers is just strange enough to merit a look for fans of the offbeat. I can't really say that this is good, but it IS interesting and it's never boring. We're constantly reminded of the director's sex film background with plenty of sex and nude scenes and lots of "romantic" montages - frolicking in the park, lovers feeding each other pizza, tight close ups of kissing - while soft jazz muzak plays. Some of this is light, such as a hilarious bit where two models strip while discussing the stock market, junk bonds and being members of Mensa (brilliant!), but there's also some seedier stuff going on here. At the party full of decadent weirdos, Cathy opens various doors to reveal things like a threesome between an elderly couple and a young woman, some mild S&M scenarios and two lesbians giving each other enemas (!) in the bathroom. People get crucified and the psycho wielding the sledge hammer informs a soon-to-be-victim "I'm going to reach down your throat and rip out your lungs... nothing personal."

Even though they do rip off THE SENTINEL (1976) to a certain extent, writers Ed Kelleher (aka Ed Adlum) and Harriette Vidal do deserve a little bit of credit for whipping up a bizarre little tale (made even more bizarre by the director / editors odd sense of pacing) with some amusing dialogues. Ed French designed the "lurker" make-up and the cast also includes Roy MacArthur as Monica's creepy uncle, producer / composer / co-editor Walter Sear as a studio engineer and Ruth Collins as a model. There's also an uncredited early appearance by future Scream Queen Debbie Rochon in her very first horror role (she can be spotted a few times during the party scene).

The Roberta Findlay horrorography also includes the notorious SNUFF (1974), the horror-porn A WOMAN'S TORMENT (1977), THE ORACLE (1984), TENEMENT (1985), BLOOD SISTERS (1986), PRIME EVIL (1988; which included much of the same cast seen here) and the still-unreleased (though reputedly completed) BANNED (1989). It may not seem like much but it's enough to make Mrs. Findlay one of the most prolific female genre directors ever. End credits copyright is 1987, though it would be released the following year.

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