FEBRUARY 8, 2014
Post-Scream (or, more truthfully, post-I Know What You Did Last Summer), the slasher movie was as hot as it was in the early 80s, and we were treated to several over the next couple years until it died out again. But there was no such thing as "VOD" back then, so a movie either played theatrically (Urban Legend, the sequels to the above, the "back to basics" H20, etc), or it went direct to VHS (!) and/or DVD and was more or less lost. Such is the case with Lover's Lane, which would probably remain obscure if not for Anna Faris, who plays a cheerleader (!) and shot this thing before becoming much more famous the following year parodying such films in Scary Movie.
And that's what makes the film are the more interesting - it's actually the most straightforward of the bunch. I Know... was played less "winky" than Scream and Urban Legend, but it still had some of Kevin Williamson's hyper-aware dialogue. So it's amusing to see a Scary Movie star earn her chops by appearing in the only one that wasn't very funny to begin with - there are a couple of hilariously bad lines*, but otherwise it thankfully acts as if the post-modern elements of Scream had never existed. That sort of stuff dated poorly (even Scream - a classic - hasn't aged perfectly), so it's better in the long run to just take it seriously.
However, it DOES have a heavy Scream influence in pretty much every other aspect of the movie, in that the backstory involves our heroine's dead mother, who was believed to be having an affair with the father of one of the other characters. Also (spoiler for 15 year old movie ahead!) there are multiple killers, and while it's not too surprising who they are, I WAS impressed at their attempt to distract us away from the obvious. See, one of the killers is seen in a car with a date, and claims to hear a noise. Later, two of the protagonists play a prank and scare the others, and it's fresh in our minds when two other characters run over, screaming about a killer. At first the others think it's another joke, but then the date runs over, covered in blood, and dies. Everyone screams and the slasher carnage begins, and no one thinks twice about the fact that we never saw the other body. Good trick.
Another spoiler ahead!
It also, somewhat hilariously, actually has the escaped mental patient as a real antagonist. You've seen this scenario in a bunch of movies (My Bloody Valentine and Prom Night come to mind); everyone thinks the killer is the urban legend character they've been afraid of, who has escaped or is unaccounted for in some way, so the real killer can hide in plain sight. Usually it ends up being explained away before the real killer is identified; a cop will explain to the sheriff that their suspect has been caught (or in Harry Warden's case, died years before) and then the real threat will be exposed. But here, in addition to the two killers using his notoriety for their own deeds, the actual escaped mental patient shows up and tries to kill our heroes! It's kind of genius in its own stupid way.
It's just a shame that these inspired ideas weren't being used in a better overall movie. It's serviceable, but the complicated motive requires way too much exposition (upon finding his wife's body in the film's opening flashback, a man is comforted by his brother, who rattles off a bunch of backstory, awkwardly, which tips you off to the modern day killer's identity before he/she even appears!), and such things continue throughout the movie. The heroine (a lovely actress named Erin J. Dean who appeared in several things before this but seemingly gave up the business after)randomly explains the other characters' relations to each other to Faris for no real reason, and the parents of both protagonists repeatedly tell each other things that the other probably knows.
Worse, it takes a while for the killer to really get going, and the kills aren't exciting or interesting enough to make up for the wait (not that you can see them clearly anyway - the full frame DVD is very dark). The most creative bit actually comes from the male hero, who uses a stove, a box of matches, and some tape to rig up a makeshift bomb that will go off once the killer bursts through a door and inexplicably shuts it behind him (the door strikes the match as it slides across the floor). Not sure why he knew how to do this in the first place, let alone thought of it as he was in immediate danger of being stabbed with the hook, but at least he was putting more effort into things than the killer. Speaking of which, his costume also blows; yet another late 90s slasher that settles for a hood, though at least he throws on a ski mask as well to add a touch of Prom Night to the proceedings (not the best movie to honor, really, but hey, it's well intentioned).
As for Faris, it's not much of a surprise she found more fame than her co-stars (the only other one I recognized was Sarah Lancaster, who was Chuck's sister on Chuck), playing the rare cheerleader in a slasher who is actually pretty nice and personable instead of a complete bitch (Lancaster covers that ground). It's pretty much a four piece for the majority of the slasher stuff - the two heroes, the requisite dork, and Faris - and she repeatedly becomes the best part of any scene where they're all arguing or running around trying not to get killed. She even flashes the nerd (we don't see it, it's another Scream homage I guess) to distract him when the heroine has to snap his broken leg back into place, which works for pulling off a bandaid (I usually recall a memory of prurient interest) but probably not so much for impromptu leg surgery.
Basically, it's worth a look if you're a slasher completist like myself, but otherwise you shouldn't be surprised that it's remained obscure. I found it at my local CD/movie shop during a Buy 2 Get 1 on used DVDs, and it was worth about that much effort; I've already put it out in my building's "Free" pile (need to make room for the baby - can't be keeping so many junk DVDs I'm never going to watch again). Hopefully whatever curious neighbor I never talk to that notices it when they go down to do their laundry (the cover even has a Ghostface type image for extra eye-catching action) will find more to love!
What say you?
*When the two heroes find a person laying in the road, the male asks "Who is it?" and the girl replies "I don't know! Everyone we know is dead!". It's bliss.