Shot in 1986 by feature film director Johan Vandewoestijne (aka James Desert) LUCKER is one of those films that’s cult precedes it. Designed by the director as the ultimate kiss off to the Belgian Film Commission—who had refused him grant money on several occasions—Vandewoestijne decided to make a film that could be as offensive as possible. What he created was the story of John Lucker.
John Lucker (Nick Van Suyt) is a serial killer who preys on young women. He’s a rapist and a murderer, but not necessary in that order. See, Lucker likes to kill his women and then let them ripen up for a few weeks of decomposition before having his way with their rotting corpses. As the film opens, Lucker is sedated in a mental institution but before long, he’s killed the nurses and escaped into town to find the only survivor from years before—a task made much easier because of a news report that virtually gives away the current location of the girl.
Anyone who read that last line instantly recognizes the absurdity of the production. The film is constructed on a pencil-thin premise that is really just a series of minor set-pieces where John Lucker can take 10 to 15 minutes to show the audience something that they never imagined in even their sickest and darkest dreams. It’s a film designed to shock and in 1986 it most certainly would have. But today—in the land of “Two Girls and a Cup”—the film is hardly cutting edge material.
LUCKER is a mixed bag, mainly of interest because—with the exception of black market VHS tapes—the film has been hardly seen by anyone. In fact, the only release of the flick over the years has been based off a print that is dubbed in English with burned in Dutch subtitles. Fans of Jörg Buttgereit’s 1987 film NEKROMANTIK will also have their interest piqued as Vandewoestijne’s film preceded the now legendary German production by a few months—both films of course are famous for their twisted take on sex after death.
For most of you—even the most ardent genrephiles—LUCKER is simply a curio, something to check out just to say you’ve seen it. It’s just not a quality film. The production is a rambling road trip as LUCKER searches for his final victim, taking out a few other folks along the way. The performances don’t really help because the English dubbing is mind-numbingly bad. There are blood and gore galore while Van Suyt mugs for the camera like a raving lunatic (which he obviously is) but little in the way of plot. As the film reaches its climax it more or less devolves into a chase and torture film, eliminating dialogue for screaming, groaning, huffing and grunting, punctuated by the films score and the sounds of shaking locked doors and stomping on the ground. It’s irritating in much the same manner as watching your neighbor’s home videos as they run around with carefree abandon whist filming it all.
It’s impossible to discount LUCKER since it stands on a precipice—introducing the world to a new breed of voracious European auteurs like Buttergereit who were destroying our concepts of what was deemed socially acceptable on film. Those productions are really responsible for paving the way for the films like the GUINEA PIG series, PSYCHO: THE SNUFF REELS and the AUGUST UNDERGROUND films. So, even if you disregard the watchability of productions like those, it’s virtually impossible to ignore them—and for that we can thank John Lucker. But, even with all that in the forefront of your thoughts, LUCKER is still a pretty lousy film. It’s a reminder that being a historically important production is hardly qualification enough to overcome the reality of its failings as entertainment—if you don’t believe me, try and sit through the first “all talkie” film—1928’s LIGHTS OF NEW YORK or the first Technicolor film—1917’s THE GULF BETWEEN. Truth be told, those films would be even harder to find than a copy of LUCKER (had Synapse not finally decided to release it on DVD this month).
So, if you’re looking for a quick lesson in extreme fringe cinema then look no further. But if you’re in the mood for quality entertainment, then LUCKER only promises to leave you colder than the rotting corpses on your television screen.
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