Billed as a Belgian underground sicko classic, writer-director Johan Vandewoestijne’s Lucker: The Necrophagous, from 1986, has the “controversial” advantage of being shocking to the film establishment of that particular place and era, but little else working in its favor. Gory but entirely thoughtless in its construction, the shoestring-budgeted, low-grade horror flick is a niche-market relic of ’80s slasher cinema that could have easily been left behind by the digital revolution, and not much missed.
The story centers around John Lucker (Nick van Suyt), a deeply disturbed serial rapist and killer locked up in a clinic after committing eight murders. After managing to escape (in a sequence owing a debt to John Carpenter’s Halloween) and dispatching a nurse and her doctor boyfriend (Carry van Middel and Frank van Laecke, respectively) in the process, Lucker flees to the city, searching for the one lone survivor, Cathy Jordan (Helga Vandevelde, above), of his previous killing spree. His disgusting rampage continues, and so more people — including a drug-peddling woman at a bar who strangely, aggressively comes on to him — all die, mostly by way of shivs to the head, eyes and gut.
The rub in all this? Lucker’s psycho-sexual kink is that he prefers his victims dead… like, way dead — rotted, skeleton-dead. There’s no back story or attempt at psychological explanation here, but neither is Lucker a lurking boogeyman-type flick, in the vein of something like When a Stranger Calls. Much of the film unfolds from arguably Lucker’s point-of-view, but because the story is so brazenly designed to air-quote shock and only shock — as much as William Castle’s old vibrating seat cushions — one feels nothing, except for the impulse for this to pass. This paper-mache construction, as much as its middling to very poor execution — save for some nice musical touches — render the entire affair a big yawn.
For many years, Lucker — owing as much to a reputation earned by its absence as anything else, it seems — was one of the more sought-after and widely distributed films on the “grey market.” The quality of the movie notwithstanding, distributor Synapse Films has done a fine job bringing marginalized foreign genre titles and alt-cinema to DVD, and their treatment of Lucker is no exception. Housed in a regular Amray case and presented in a brushed-up, if still a bit grainy 16:9 anamorphic widescreen transfer, the film’s DVD debut comes with Vandewoestijne’s full participation in restoration, as well as a new director’s cut, running a trim 68 minutes. Additionally, there’s the original, 74-minute VHS version of the movie, presented in English with Dutch subtitles. This latter version basically has a few more “socially redeeming”-type environmental inserts, like Lucker attempting to hitchhike, and wandering about the city, which are the most (read: only, even vaguely) interesting part of the movie to begin with.
Apart from this, there’s also a 36-minute making-of featurette built around a present-day interview with Vandewoestijne, who more than a bit resembles Jon Lovitz’s character from The Critic. The writer-director snickeringly admits the purely naked shock motives of his story’s inception (other various projects he pitched were turned down for government-financed funding), and intimates that he misled a bank into providing the bulk of the movie’s $30,000 budget by being less than forthcoming about the film’s script. Vandewoestijne shares a few anecdotes about the eight-day, April 1985 shoot, but a fair portion of the chat is dedicated to the film’s post-production hang-ups (“The distributor was only producing films in order to find girls, and to fuck them,” he says, charmingly) and its clean-up two decades later. Interspersed throughout are a handful of out-of-focus set photos, as well as some deleted scenes. Vandewoestijne makes a case that there are various artistic as well as business reasons for their exclusion, but it doesn’t take a genius to know that a sequence in a video store with a prominently displayed poster of Return of the Jedi, plus other movie paraphernalia, wouldn’t have passed clearance for theatrical distribution, even in France, where the movie initially played. For more information, or to purchase the film on DVD, click here. F (Movie) B (Disc)