The seventies and eighties were a great time for horror cinema in many ways, with a lot of iconic and impactful work being released. But with the gold comes the dross, and there was also a lot of mediocre fare, lower in quality, but still oftentimes fun. The most recent double bill from Scorpion Releasing, featuring The Lurkers and Die Sister, Die is an example of the less than stellar efforts of the two decades.
The Lurkers is the better of the two films, from 1988, it revolves around classical cellist Cathy (Christine Moore), who was tormented as a child by her psychotic mother in their creepy apartment building in Washington Heights, New York. As an adult, she continues to have nightmares about the ghostly figures that would come out of the walls of her bedroom and call her name, but she's found some peace due to the love of her fashion photographer fiancé Bob (Gary Warner).
Her life becomes more and more bizarre as her nightmares and visions become ever more intense, culminating when she receives a warning from a mysterious woman, sees a sledgehammer murder on the street outside a party hosted by Bob's partner Monica (Marina Taylor), coincidentally in the apartment building in which Cathy grew up, and can't get any of the quirky party goers to believe her or call the police.
The Lurkers is moody, and deliberately paced (perhaps too deliberately), and has endearingly cheesy special effects. The performances aren't great, but are typical for exploitation films of the eighties, even though this film isn't particularly exploitive. It doesn't really have a lot of scares, but it does have a nice mood, as stated above, and the last twenty minutes or so are a bizarre episode of dream logic and nightmares that wraps up the film nicely.
Die Sister, Die isn't as good a film as its disc mate. It's slow paced, lacks thrills or scares, and is mostly devoid of drama. A lot of these flaws can be traced back to a basic writing mistake: we know almost from the outset that Edward (Jack Ging) wants to drive his sister Amanda (Edith Atwater) to suicide. And we know because he explicitly tells Esther (Antoinette Bower), the nurse he hired to "care" for her, that this is his plan. Thus, there's no dramatic ambiguity about Edward's intentions, only the mystery of why Amanda might be in a suicidal frame of mind to begin with, which turns out to not be a terribly interesting mystery anyway.
So, while the performances are better here than in The Lurkers, there's less point to what's going on, and lower stakes, so the higher quality actors don't have enough to work with to make a difference. Die Sister, Die is a pretty disappointing film.
Fans of schlocky seventies and eighties films might get some joy out of this double feature, but unless there's some special connection to them, the general viewer won't find much to like. These are fairly unremarkable films, though The Lurkers is sort of fun. Rent this one.
Video is 1.78:1 widescreen for both films, and the quality is average. The colors aren't as sharp and vibrant as we're used to with modern film, but are typical for the eras in which they were filmed. However, this review is based on a check disc, so no comment can be made on the quality of the final product.
Audio is Dolby digital 2 channel, and generally works. The dialogue in both films is always clearly audible, and while the sound isn't particularly rich, there isn't any hiss or other problem audible. No subtitles are included, but isolated scores are available for both films. However, this review is based on a check disc, so no comment can be made on the quality of the final product.
Aside from the isolated music tracks for both films, the only extras are the Katarina's Nightmare Theater intro for The Lurkers (Die Sister, Die lacks such an intro) and trailers for both the feature films, as well as Scorpion releases Sorceress, Dogs and Saint Jack. However, this review is based on a check disc, so no comment can be made about the quality or quantity of extras on the final product.
It's unclear why these two particular films were paired together for this release. They're not thematically related, don't share stars or directors, and are from different decades. However, they are both somewhere in the middle of the range, as far as quality goes, with The Lurkers being the better of the two. This is worth a look, but don't expect high art.