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Lurkers (1988)


This review is part of a series: 31 Days of Horror Directed by Women.

What a strange little bird of a movie. There's a lot going on here, and also almost nothing going on here. Actually, what's going on is incredibly mundane because it's so relatable to being a woman IRL. One could argue that, like it's obvious influence Rosemary's Baby, Roberta Findlay's Lurkers is a two-part horror. One part Satanic cult horror; one part Wow-Men-Are-The-Worst horror. This kind of two-hander is the best because it's fun trying to decide if I'm more afraid of Satan or of Men.* It could be argued that the film's opening sequence is also the movie's most memorable. We meet Cathy (Christine Moore) as a young girl living with her almost comically cruel mother in a Washington Heights apartment complex. Jesus Jose Christ, her mother is awful. She seems to literally hate her daughter, and I have never heard the phrase "now go out and play" delivered in such a threatening, terrifying manner. She's the worst, but at least we get to see her die a terrible death. Unfortunately, Cathy sees it too, and it's not an understatement to describe her childhood as a literal dumpster fire. 
Thankfully, in the next scene, we see present-day Cathy as a beautiful, well-adjusted adult. She's accomplished in her career and is engaged to a totally fun, very loving and attractive male. This male, conveniently named Bob, is a professional photographer. He's always working very closely with his attractive female co-worker but there's definitely nothing at all going on between them because Bob really, really loves Cathy. We see this in the way that he is frequently seen denying her experiences in order to satisfy his own needs, and the way he is always telling her he is doing one thing even though he is clearly doing something totally differentusually with an attractive woman. He is what we call a scumbag catch, ladies!

I honestly don't know what it has to do with the actual plot, but I feel the need to mention a striking scene that happens fairly early on in the film. We watch two attractive women, who I think are models, change into sexy outfits while having a conversation that 100% passes the Bechdel test. This conversation is ridiculous, not just because one woman mentions that she's a member of Mensa**, but also because they discussin detailtheir stock options while the camera focuses on their perfectly perky 80s bare breasts. I can't explain what 80s breasts are, but if you watch the movie I think you'll understand. I think this scene is supposed to show that Bob's photography job involves a lot of hotties with bodies, and thus alert our suspicions about his loyalty to Cathy. The scene is ridiculous but memorable I feel the need to mention it. It feels very of it's time.

Anyway, throughout the film, we watch Cathy have this really unfortunate relationship with Bob, who definitely doesn't care about her in the slightest, but for some reasonwhich will be revealed eventuallycontinues to lie to her face about how devoted he is to her. Besides Bob's foolishness, Cathy is also haunted by memories of her childhood home, which is a frequent backdrop in the horrifying nightmares she has every night. In these nightmares she sees these strange, pale beings. Some of them are children and some are adults; all of them are creepy as fuck. The bulk of the film is a toxic mixture of Cathy's fucked up dreams and daytime hallucinations, plus Bob gaslighting her into oblivion. In fact, he gaslights like it's his day job: he constantly undermines Cathy's spot on suspicions about him and the warning signs she gets from her nightmare visions. 

Lurkers as a horror and as a piece of entertainment is unremarkable, mostly. I think some horror connoisseurs consider it a special little movie, It's alright. It's not that exciting and by the time the ending arrives, I'm ready to tap out. I feel so bad for Cathy but I can't do anything for her. I wish she'd listened to the creepy pale people in her violent visions instead of her stupid idiot fiance, but she was clearly traumatized by her childhood and was replaying that familiar trauma in her relationship. Bob takes advantage of her vulnerability, and she must meet her fate, as many of us have, are, and will continue to do. Cathy isn't dumb, she's just a product of a shitty environment. A patriarchal society's chief aim is to create a toxic space in which women are too afraid to trust their own intuition and skills. Instead they blindlyor worse, are brutally forced to accept men's desires. Unlike the ghostly people in Cathy's dreams, this is a very real nightmare that lurks in plain sight.

*The answer is always that men are scarier. While Satan is also a man, he is supernaturally sexy and also powerful in a demonic way, not just an insecure, patriarchal way 😈
**I feel the unfortunate need to clarify that I DO NOT mean that it's ridiculous that a hot woman would be a Mensa member. What I mean is that the idea of Mensa as an indicator of anything other than an ego stroke is...really funny! Don't believe me? Listen to this podcast.