Thursday, August 14, 2008

LUCKER (1986) d. Johan Vandewoestijne

Reviewed by Rick Trottier

The word appalling has many definitions, among them “dreadful and shocking”, “causing shock or horror”, “very bad”, “causing dismay” and “horrendous”. Any and all of these descriptions apply to LUCKER (aka LUCKER THE NECROPHAGOUS: The Director’s Cut). One might ask, “How does a film descend to the level of being appalling?” All you have to do is watch LUCKER, study it carefully, and Johnny you too can make an appalling film and cause shock or dismay in viewers. It won’t be easy, but with a little effort and a lot of intestinal discomfort, you can become an appalling film maker and reach levels of appallingly miserable artistry.

LUCKER is the story of John Lucker, a serial killer who escapes a coma, then escapes a private mental institution to go back to his shades wearin’, gruntin & grimacin’ and eventually his killing ways. His ultimate goal upon escaping confinement is to track down and brutalize Cathy Jordan, the female victim who escaped him after his last rampage. Along the way, John Lucker kills people who cross his path, people who remind him of Cathy or people who just don’t seem to come into focus properly in his eyewear. Lucker’s hope is to continue to kill, season, decompose and then make love to his female victims once they’ve become properly rancid. By the end, John Lucker has disrupted the Belgian nightlife to a small degree, inconvenienced a prostitute and her friends and genuinely been incomprehensible.

When I noticed that “The Director’s Cut” was actually several minutes shorter than the original 1986 VHS release, I was immediately suspicious, but I soldiered forward. I had another pang of concern when I realized that a 2006 re-editing of LUCKER was going to run just 69 minutes. Neither of these film characteristics are to be seen much nowadays, but I steeled myself to what I suspected was going to be something akin to a “prison rape” and I was not wrong. LUCKER is an appalling pile of cinematic refuse closely related to what you might step in if you were walking through a well traveled urban park. From the opening credits which were long, ponderous, self-important and poorly shot, we went right into a feature film rife with terrible dubbing, even more poorly shot scenes and frightfully edited sequences which felt like a camel ride on a merry-go-round as the beast of burden jumped from one fanciful creature to the next. While director Johan Vandewoestijne seemed to be trying to create atmosphere by using colorful composition on rare occasions, interesting camera angles every now and then and point of view segments here and there, all of his efforts were cancelled by innumerable mistakes. First, the “film” was dark, grainy and looked like it had been projected on a blanket. Too often I could sense what I was looking at and assumed it wasn’t terribly compelling, but I wanted to make sure. Whether these difficulties were the fault of the film maker or a bad transfer doesn’t matter as the damage was done. Next, frequently we were too close to what was going on to see it clearly, it was badly framed, the actors were poor at their craft and the director insisted on tirelessly using visual and audio loops during action scenes. The loops didn’t make the scenes more intense by lengthening them, those scenes just became even more wearisome. Finally, at 69 minutes, one wouldn’t think that padding and filler would be an issue with a movie, but LUCKER was crammed full of both. Had this film really been cut down to its proper running time, it might have worked as a 30 minute episode on some Belgian TV horror anthology. What we were treated to for most of the 69 minutes was Lucker walking down alleys, Lucker staring down halls, Lucker peering through his sunglasses and sub-vocalizing, Lucker rocking in a chair, Lucker bashing people in a thoroughly uninteresting manner and Lucker rubbing his wearied eyes. While the overall story premise doesn’t lend itself to a deep, complex or intricate narrative, the screenplay of LUCKER was even more paralyzingly dull than could be imagined and the gore scenes were done for shock effect alone. There wasn’t a sense of style to be had during those penultimate moments at any time during the film. To end this parade of travesties was possibly the slowest and most tedious credit crawl I’ve ever seen. As each name dragged across the screen, I had a sense of what it must have been like for Cro-Magnon Man to watch the continental ice sheets creep across the lands. At least Dror the Bison-Head would get to see a valley carved or a mountain shattered by The Ice. All I saw was white letters breaking the face of a black background after a film I loathed.

The extras menu does have a couple of tidbits that may or may not be of interest to the viewer. In addition to the modern re-edit, there is the original 1986 VHS release in English with Dutch subtitles. There is a 36 minute mini-documentary called “Lucker: The Story Behind the Film” where the director tells his tale of the making of Lucker. Much was explained when I heard Johan Vandewoestijne aka James Desert say that LUCKER was made as revenge on the Flemish Film Council for their nixing of some of his earlier projects. I suppose one can consider this review revenge on the director, who was also the producer, writer and editor, for stealing 69 minutes of my life that will never be returned to me.

Normally my reviews stretch past four pages and for good reason. Whether it is a good or bad film, I like to explore the various components of the movie, find strengths and weaknesses and analyze them in a fashion that can help viewers to understand whether a film might be right for them or not. I highly recommend LUCKER as a sleep aid if you love gore films, for this will disappoint. If you have tender sensibilities, some of the content of LUCKER may act as a purgative. For those who need coasters or like to shoot skeet, LUCKER may serve as a material benefit. Whatever you do, don’t sit down to LUCKER hoping for an enjoyable experience. I have seen a lot of “bad” films that are good in some way and this isn’t one of them. Watch DANGEROUS SEDUCTRESS or LADY TERMINATOR, Frisbee LUCKER into the wood chipper and then e-mail me your thanks.

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