Screen Reviews
Lover’s Lane

Lover’s Lane

directed by Jon Steven Ward

starring Anna Farris, Sarah Lancaster, Richard Sanders

Arrow Video

Shot on 35mm on a half-million dollar budget in the exurbs of Seattle with a mix of working Hollywood actors and local talent, Lover’s Lane (1999) was shot too late in the theatrical cycle to have much impact and was sentenced to the purgatory of a direct to video release. The film is a delightful throwback to ’80s slasher films that delivers the requisite scares and sleaze while keeping the grating, jokey tendencies of the era mostly in check. It avoids the pitfall of being overtly meta or ironic, playing things mostly straight, with sharp dialogue and a brisk pace that help mask budget restraints and some fun twists and genuinely interesting teen characters who function as more than hapless victims for the killer.

Lover’s Lane, directed by Jon Steven Ward
Lover’s Lane, directed by Jon Steven Ward

Lover’s Lane checks important boxes for a quality slasher movie. Is there gore? Yes. The film has some effective gore, but it is a far cry far from the elaborate, visceral work of Tom Savini. Is there nudity? You betcha. They do compensate with gratuitous nudity to keep the audience engaged. Are there some intentional or unintentional silly bits to have a chuckle over? Yep there’s some of that as well. Heck, there are even some actual TV and movie stars who were either working their way up or down the career ladder at the end of the ’90s: Anna Farris, Sarah Lancaster (Chuck), and Richard Sanders (WKRP in Cincinnati), who plays against his mild Les Nessman character as a creepy, perverted psychiatrist. The real strength of the film is the teen characters, and screenwriters Geof Miller & Rory Veal do a commendable job of bucking the stupid teenagers trope. These are relatable kids who react to situations they are ill-equipped to handle with understandable fear and panic — but not inhuman levels of dumb. When our band first encounters the Hook, terror quickly leads to panic. They don’t make quips or posture, they run for their lives, which causes them to wreck their car, in the process forcing them to take shelter in a farmhouse, where they are soon visited by the Hook, the mythical killer of numerous summer camp ghost stories.

Lover’s Lane, directed by Jon Steven Ward
Lover’s Lane, directed by Jon Steven Ward

Lover’s Lane takes place on Valentine’s Day, but doesn’t do much with the holiday. What is important is 13 years earlier, the wife of the now sheriff and the husband of the now high school principal were having an affair and were found murdered by the hook-handed killer that stalks the local makeout spot. Now the killer is in the state hospital overseen by Dr. Jack Grefe (Richard Sanders), who is also the father of Chloe Grefe (Sarah Lawrence), the super pretty and popular blonde who may have some anger management issues. She’s dating the high school principal’s son Michael (Riley Smith), or was until he broke up with her on Valentine’s Day. In an attempt to make him jealous, she ropes in some of their friends to find a way to get Michael out to lover’s lane, where he’ll see her with another guy, get jealous, and want her back. To make the plan plausible, class schmuck Doug (Billy O’Sullivan) enlists the sheriff’s bookworm daughter Mandy (Erin J. Dean) as his “date” for the night. They team up with new-girl cheerleader Janelle (Anna Faris) and an actual couple, Cathy (Megan Hunt) and Tim (Collin F. Peacock), to head out for their wild evening. Meanwhile, the Hook has escaped and picks up his carnage where he left off 13 years ago. Yeah, it’s kind of a lot, and it gets difficult to keep all the characters and their family connections and motivations straight, but it is clear the Hook has unfinished business with the horny teens and with the families of his previous victims. But it isn’t quite that simple, and the twists pile up faster than the bodies in a fun and audacious climax.

Lover’s Lane, directed by Jon Steven Ward
Lover’s Lane, directed by Jon Steven Ward

After failing to secure a theatrical release, Lover’s Lane landed on home video and was quickly forgotten. All the elements for a successful horror movie are there: the screenplay is fine, if a bit over complicated, and the director pulls nice performances out of his mix of working actors and local talent. Anna Farris in her first film is utterly charming and gives the proceedings a lot of heart in what could have been a thankless role as a ditzy cheerleader, including a terrific bit of business where she realizes the hook is in the house and she arms herself with four knives. The film’s biggest issue is the look of the film, which is wildly inconsistent, with scenes that range from beautifully lit to incomprehensibly dark and muddy. There are two different scenes of teenagers making out in cars at night. The first one is the opening scene of the film and is super clear and effective (even though it was shot in a producer’s garage), and the second is so dark and grainy it is more abstract than titillating. Most likely, they started out with grand ambitions, and before they were finished they were just trying to get something on film so they could get the film finished. It’s a shame, because with a little more care Lover’s Lane could have been something special.

Arrow Video


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