Director/Photography – Roberta Findlay, Screenplay – Ed Kelleher & Harriette Vidal, Producer/Music – Walter E. Sear, Makeup Effects – Ed French. Production Company – Reeltime Distributing Corporation
Christine Moore (Cathy Barrett), Gary Warner (Bob), Marina Taylor (Monica), Peter Oliver-Norman (Steve), Nancy Groff (Rita), Roy MacArthur (Desmond), Carissa Channing (Sally), Dana Nardell (Young Cathy), Lauren Ruane (Ghost Child), Eva Baumann (Guardian Angel), Thomas Billett (Leo ‘The Hammer’)
Cathy Barrett is a cellist living in New York City and due to be married to the photographer Bob. She begins to be haunted by what she calls ‘lurkers’, figures that she used to see emerge from the walls of the apartment building where she grew up, as well as by memories of a childhood incident where other girls attempted to strangle her with a skipping rope.
Lurkers is one of the films of Roberta Findlay, a legendary figure in what people seem to want to refer to as grindhouse cinema. For much of the latter half of the 1960s and throughout the 1970s, Roberta worked alongside her husband Michael Findlay as a cinematographer on numerous porn films, frequently operating under male pseudonyms. Within genre material, she photographed and Michael directed Slaughter (1971), which was later reedited as Snuff (1976) and became arguably the world’s first Found Footage film, as well as his Bigfoot film Shriek of the Mutilated (1974). She also photographed Invasion of the Blood Farmers (1972) whose director Ed Kelleher also co-writes the film here. She directed more than thirty porn films herself since 1966. Michael was beheaded in a freak helicopter accident in 1977 and since then Roberta carried on on her own. Into the 1980s, she began to embrace the video revolution and left adult material to direct several low-budget horror films with The Oracle (1985), Tenement (1985), Blood Sisters (1987), Prime Evil (1988) and Banned (1989). By 1990, she appears to have retired from the film industry.
Roberta Findlay emerged out of porn films where the camera is basically focused on people humping and not much is required in terms of directorial style. This clearly ran aground when she tried to apply the same approach to the horror genre, which requires far more than that in the way of style. Findlay demonstrates a technical competence in what she does but Lurkers remains painfully dull and uneventful for the bulk of its running time. The actors, none of whom have ever been heard of again, feel as though they are barely one step above amateurs. Everything is overrun by a cheap-sounding 1980s synth score.
The other complaint I would make is that the script consists of the occasional apparition, the strange figure lurking and flashbacks to the heroine’s traumatic childhood experience with a bunch of cruel and malicious girls who tried to kill her. Yet in all of this, the central menace remains undefined. In another horror film, there would almost certainly be a connection to some unresolved issue or entity that is coming back to haunt her but we go through almost three-quarters of the film trying to figure out why anything is happening. The rest seems to be Findlay and her crew straining to create atmosphere out of nothing much at all – the perfect example of this being an extended scene where Christine Moore is waiting to go into the party and for no particular reason is pursued through the streets by a maniac.
Lurkers almost pulls itself together in about the last twenty minutes after Christine Moore goes into the party. Here Roberta Findlay creates a decadent atmosphere that seems to be harkening back to her porn days (albeit more mildly) – with Moore opening doors into rooms with people engaged in threesomes, lesbian scenes, S&M, a crucifixion, as well as a man being beaten up for a deal gone wrong. [PLOT SPOILERS] The film then produces an interesting twist that has been blatantly borrowed from The Sentinel (1977) of a woman in a haunted-seeming apartment building who discovers that this is a gateway to Hell and that all of the strange and perverse tenants are damned souls. It is an interesting twist, although one that fails to justify an entirely dull lead-up.