Lovers Lane is an odd piece of cinema. The slasher movie was at its height in the 1980s, a time where you couldn’t walk through a video store without tripping over a stack of slasher VHS tapes. After vanishing into obscurity for a few years, the genre made a resurgence in the late 90s thanks to Scream bringing fresh life and interest to things. the success of Scream would lead to movies like I Know What You Did Last Summer and Halloween: H20 as other studios tried to jump on the trend. Lovers Lane was released just a couple of years after Scream, and feels like it should be primed to cash in on this, yet somehow manages to feel out of time and out of place.
Lovers Lane begins with a flashback sequence to thirteen years in the past, where a young couple are making out in a parked car at the local lovers lane. They’re disturbed by a hook-handed maniac, who tries to kill them both. The couple manage to escape, but find another car with a man and woman murdered in it. When police arrive on the scene one of the officers, Tom (Matt Riedy), who has his young daughter in the car with him, is distraught to learn that the murdered woman is his wife, who was having an affair. The hook-handed man is arrested, and placed in a psychiatric hospital.
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Thirteen years later, in the present day (1999) the local teens are gearing up for parties and shenanigans for Valentine’s Day. The film spends some time introducing us to a number of characters, such as Chloe (Sarah Lancaster), the school bitch, cheerleader Janelle (Anna Faris), and the prankster Doug (Billy O’Sullivan). We also get to see Tom’s daughter Mandy (Erin J. Dean), who has become a bit of a lonely teen, and Michael (Riley Smith), the son of the principal, and the son of the man Mandy’s mother was having an affair with. As the teens plan their parties and prepare for a night of fun, the hook-handed man breaks out of hospital, ready to continue his swathe of killings.
Despite being released towards the end of the 90s, Lovers Lane feels like a movie from an earlier time – but it’s hard to pin down what time. Much of the film has the feel of a story from the 1950s thanks to the use of the Hook Man urban legend that was popularised at that time, whilst the quality of the slasher horror feels more at home in a cheap movie from the 80s. There are no scenes in the film that really impress. The film feels kind of flat, like it’s going through the motions and ticking the boxes for what’s needed for the story to happen, without giving any of it any flair.
We spend time with the teens at the start of the movie because it needed to establish characters that are going to be killed. But none of the teens really feel like characters. Some of them are stereotypes, like the bitchy popular and pretty girl who hates everyone she sees as beneath her, and the guy in the bright shirt who’s always cracking jokes and acting like a smart-ass because he thinks it will somehow get him laid. But outside of that none of the teens are really much of anything. Mandy is bookish and shy, and seems to be disliked or outright hated by the other teens, but the film doesn’t explain why. Other characters just kind of exist, and other than being there to fill the room or get killed off they don’t really contribute anything to proceedings.
This flatness translates to visuals as well. Most of the scenes are shot in the most expected ways possible, and there are no stand out moments or things that happen that you’ll not have seen done better in other movies. None of the scenes are badly shot, but there’s nothing about them that makes them feel special. Locations and sets look kind of bland and flat, and the characters’ costumes feel plain and un-noteworthy. Compared to some of the visual flair of other teen slasher movies of the time it feels like little effort was made to be seen as anything other than a cheap cash-in.
The film tries to do something different with the ending at least, something that does set it apart from the older slasher movies that it seems to have drawn a lot of inspiration from, but once again, compared to something like Scream, which was already two films deep at this point, it still fails to make it interesting enough to compete with those twist endings.
The Blu-ray version comes with two versions of the film, one in widescreen and one in full frame, but neither differs from the other in any real way other than the presentation. There’s an audio commentary from the film’s writers and producers, Geof Miller and Rory Veal, who go into some details about the making of the movie that ends up being more interesting than the film itself, just as a way of seeing how films were made. There’s also a new behind the scenes featurette, ‘Screaming Teens: The Legacy of Lovers Lane’ which features some of the cast and crew.
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Overall, Lovers Lane feels like an odd relic of a movie. It doesn’t really fit in with the other films of its type at the time, but neither does it really fit with the eras that it has drawn inspiration from. There’s an attempt to make a half decent movie here, but it often feels like the effort and skill didn’t meet the hopes. For those who have an interest in this genre, and film history, it might be of note, but for the casual horror fan there are much better releases from Arrow that are worth your time and money.
Lovers Lane is out now from Arrow Video.