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Popcorn Fall

Popcorn Pictures

Reviewing the best (and worst) of horror, sci-fi and fantasy since 2000

  • Andrew Smith

Lovers Lane (1999)

"Don't get hooked."

Plot

A killer named 'The Hook' escapes from a mental asylum and heads back to the town where he originally committed his murders to continue his killing spree on Valentine's Day.

 

Scream's worldwide success in 1996 single-handedly salvaged the slasher film from the scrap heap and opened up the floodgates to a countless deluge of copycat clones and pretentious pretenders. Not all were content with being cleverly post-modern and many went down the straight throwback route. The golden age of the slasher was notable for mining themed days and holidays throughout the year - Friday the 13th, Halloween, Christmas, birthdays, etc. Surprisingly little was done with Valentine's Day, save for the classic slasher My Bloody Valentine and the lesser known Hospital Massacre. So it was no surprise to see a couple of these new wave slasher films tackle the 'most romantic day' of the year, Valentine being the most famous. But Lovers Lane was released two years earlier - does it beat its more famous brethren in the slashing stakes?


Lovers Lane (which went under the name of I’m Still Waiting For You in the UK - no relation to dire slasher I've Been Waiting For You) strangely plays the whole slasher scenario straight without any hint of self-awareness. I guess in the four years since Scream came out, the majority of decent self-referential nods and sub-genre in-jokes were played out. Lovers Lane assumes that all of the tired sub-genre conventions such as the alcohol-and-sex-fuelled teens, the constant red herrings, investigating strange noises and copious false scares somehow have become original again. Unfortunately without adding a novel spin to them, they're just trotted out with mechanical precision. The main plot itself has become a staple of the sub-genre for lazy writers - that of a killer breaking out of an asylum and returning to his hometown on an important holiday. It worked in Halloween because it wasn't played out. However, this simple plot is given all manner of complicated twists and turns throughout Lovers Lane which makes it hard to follow. 'Killer stalking and slaughtering teens' should not be as convoluted and hard to comprehend as this makes out.


This would be all well and good if Lovers Lane actually did anything worthwhile with its slasher conventions. I could tolerate a confusing plot if at least the film delivers the genre goodies. But it fails dramatically short of meeting those requirements. For a start, Lovers Lane features some appalling lighting. I'm really not sure what the intention was but the majority of the night scenes are badly lit and way too dark and murky to see what is going on. Since most of the film takes place at night, this is kind of a big deal for the way the film pans out. Even if the film featured some of the best-looking women shedding their clothes for the camera and then being sliced and diced in ways that Tom Savini could only dream of, you wouldn't be able to see a single frame of it because it's so damned dark (note to the reader: it does not feature some of the best-looking women shedding their clothes and being sliced and diced in ways that Tom Savini could only dream of). In various scenes, the screen is literally black and impossible to make anything out. Maybe it was the transfer on the DVD I watched but I won't be in any hurry to re-watch a different copy to see if things are any different.


I Know What You Did Last Summer may not every slasher fan's cup of tea but I didn't think it was that bad and it provided the sub-genre with the memorable fisherman killer who sported a fishing hook weapon. Not too many slashers used the hook as their regular weapon-of-choice (though many have used it for one-off kills in the past) so it's pretty evident that the writers here saw I Know What You Did Last Summer and thought it would be a good idea to knock off their killer, complete with a hood and hook. The killer isn't memorable in the slightest and is also victim to the darkness that shrouds the entire film. If we can't see him, we can't connect to them in any way. On the odd occasion that the hook is used, it's apparent that Lovers Lane has a few aces up its sleeve. But with little gore and little chance of seeing what is going on, these aces are thrown away.


Lovers Lane features your usual caricatured teen cast and, whilst it's not peppered with a slew of Dawson's Creek (or insert other US teen drama of the late 90s here) alumni like it's more famous counterparts, the actors do a decent job of bringing to life their one-note characters. These are all tried-and-tested stereotypes we've seen before and will see again and the actors aren't able to break free of the sub-genre's conventions on how they're supposed to behave. But it's a good sign that you won't be immediately praying for them all to meet horrible deaths and they actually grieve and show emotions for their fallen friends. One cast member of note is Anna Faris, who would later go on to greater fame as Cindy in the Scary Movie series, and spends the entire film dressed as a cheerleader. Watching her in a serious horror film is very hard to take seriously in retrospect.

 

Final Verdict

Lovers Lane is a perfect example of the vacuous post-modern slasher where the film opts to ignore the self-referential nature of Scream and endeavours to make an old school slasher without the gore, the nudity and the loving cheese that made the 80s slashers so perfect party viewing. Empty and unfulfilling.



 

Lovers Lane


Director(s): Jon Steven Ward


Writer(s): Geof Miller, Rory Veal


Actor(s): Anna Faris, Riley Smith, Diedre Kilgore, Carter Roy, Brian Allemand, Matt Riedy, Jori Wanquist, Megan Hunt


Duration: 90 mins




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