Horror films revolving around plays and the theatre are a small but frequently well-done subgenre. There are Theatre Of Blood with Vincent Price, Michael Soavi’s Stagefright and Peter Walker’s The Flesh And Blood Show to name a few. Writer John Lerchen and director Eric Liberacki have delivered The Lurker, a high school slasher centred around a production of Romeo And Juliet. Is it a raging success? Or something that should have been cancelled while still in rehearsals?
Taylor (Scout Taylor-Compton, Eternal Code, Getaway) has the lead role in the school’s production of Romeo And Juliet. That seems to be about all that’s going right for her. Her mother (Domenica Cameron-Scorsese, Atomic Apocalypse) is fucking one of her teachers. The school’s mean girls seem to know some dark secret about her. Her fellow cast members are being killed off one by one and she may be on the killer’s list. And worst of all she looks like she’s been held back from graduating for about twelve years.
The Lurker starts with a rather nasty killing involving an umbrella before cutting to Compton waking up in a hospital. She’s seen briefly by Dr, Stratton (Ari Lehman, Terror Tales, Friday The 13th) before we jump into the main plot. And that plot follows the slasher playbook fairly closely. We get the information we need to set the plot up along with a couple of murders. One of which, a head being bashed in with a cinder block is one of the film’s bloody highlights.
However the killing doesn’t really ramp up until the play’s wrap party, another page The Lurker takes from the playbook. While it isn’t a particularly original film, it’s a well enough done one. The script sets up plenty of red herrings. Some very hateable characters we want to see meet a nasty end. And a couple we want to see get out in one piece.
But the film is badly hurt by its casting of Compton in the lead role. She’s way too old for the part and looks it. She’s a good actress but she can’t pass for someone half her age. This is as bad as the casting of Katrina Bowden as a teen in Hunter’s Moon.
Thankfully The Lurker has enough going for it to survive this bit of miscasting. There’s a decent amount of suspense and mystery. It has more in the way of gore and effects than a lot of lower-budget films. And it has a twist that, for once, you won’t guess in the first act.