Lovers Lane Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Release: April 25, 2023
Video: 1.85:1 & 1.33:1/1080p/Color
Audio: English LPCM 2.0 stereo
Subtitles: English SDH
Run Time: 97:59
Director: Jon Steven Ward
A steamy secret tryst that was brutally cut short on Valentine's Day an unlucky thirteen years ago comes back to haunt the teens who linger around the lovers lane where the double slaying took place. The County Sheriff Tom Anderson (Matt Riedy) has just about come to terms with the fact that it was his wife who died in another man’s car on that fateful night. His daughter, Mandy (Erin J. Dean), who, as a four-year-old, saw her mother’s corpse carried away from the scene, has a different take on things. It doesn't help that her classmate Michael (Riley Smith) lost his father to the same hook-handed homicidal maniac in that night's incident. Years later, as another Valentine's Day comes round, reports come through that the man arrested as ‘The Hook’ has just burst out of his asylum. (From Arrow’s official synopsis)
By the early ‘90s, slasher films had mostly run their course as a mainstream money machine and were consigned mostly to the straight-to-video and foreign markets. This was largely due to saturation and growing audience disinterest, but the home video industry was also changing, ensuring that big-budget studio and arthouse fare got theatrical priority over grotty little indie horror movies. The fact that slashers could be made on incredibly low budgets, often by unproven filmmakers, and feed the cheaper STV market definitely helped institute the shift. But then Wes Craven made Scream in 1996, based on a smart and snarky metatextual script by Kevin Williamson that deconstructed the tropes and clichés of the early-‘80s slasher formula. It was a massive hit that changed the course of Hollywood horror (pre-9/11, after which course changed again) and made Bob Weinstein’s Dimension films a genre leader. ‘Scream-like’ became a shorthand for a subgenre of slick, sarcastic slashers and younger actors began using horror film ensembles as an entry point to stardom – a practice that would be replaced by Nickelodeon and Disney sitcoms.
All the while, sub-Hollywood filmmakers kept churning out ‘old-fashioned’ STV slashers in hopes that bored teenagers would rent their movies at Blockbuster. Not big enough for the mainstream nor outrageous enough to gain significant cult followings, these movies have been largely forgotten, waiting for rediscovery by an increasingly young horror fandom with unprecedented access to obscure cinema. Among the forgotten is Jon Steven Ward’s Seattle-based slasher Lovers Lane (aka: I’m Still Waiting for You, 1999), a film that’s pretty far from the best or most memorable of its kind, is a perfect example of how STV horror functioned in the early DVD era. While it certainly attempts to ape the mainstream – especially in its character types, fashion, and musical choices – it has borderline amateur quality, as if it doesn’t understand what made those films hits, but, by golly, everyone is going to do their best, anyway. At the same time, it's clearly made by professionals, not to be confused with the purely do-it-yourself horror movies that cropped up at the beginning of the VHS boom (the kind we’ve covered on Genre Grinder’s shot-on-video episodes). It’s like a minor league version of a studio picture, where filmmakers and actors went to prove their mettle. Some of them, like Anna Faris, who followed Lovers Lane up with a breakthrough role in Keenen Ivory Wayans’ Scary Movie (2000), itself a parody of post-Scream slashers.
Thematically, Lovers Lane owes more to Jim Gillespie’s I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) and Jamie Blanks’ Urban Legend (1998) than it does Scream, because, like them, it draws as much upon urban legends as it does golden age slashers. Specifically, it is a variation on the popular Hookman legend (or The Hook, as the tale is often called) that has existed since at least the 1950s, was republished in Alvin Schwartz’ Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (Harper & Row, 1981), and was more or less adapted for the two aforementioned movies and Bernard Rose’s Candyman (1992). In terms of slasher homage, Geof Miller & Rory Veal’s screenplay has a lot in common with George Mihalka’s My Bloody Valentine (1981) and Joseph Zito’s The Prowler (aka: Rosemary’s Killer, also 1981). Lacking any outstanding characters or particularly graphic murder sequences, it is these familiar thematic elements, along with its frothy soap operatic melodrama, that make Lovers Lane a somewhat entertaining watch 25 years later. Don’t waste your time trying to guess the killer’s identity, though, because the reveal doesn’t make any sense.
Lovers Lane made its VHS debut in 2000 and over to DVD in 2002. That was more or less the end of the line and the now OOP DVD goes for $50-$100 on the Amazon marketplace. Both releases were also presented in 1.33:1, which, given its STV marketing, might be the intended aspect ratio. Either way, Arrow has you covered for this Blu-ray debut by including 1.85:1 and 1.33:1 ratio options. I opted to watch the complete film in 4x3 and only sample the 16x9 version for comparison, so the caps on this page are 1.33:1. The original 35mm camera negatives were scanned in 4K, then restored by Arrow in 2K to bring you a brand new 1080p presentation. It’s not exactly an eye-popping transfer, but that’s okay, because it’s not exactly a reference quality kind of movie. Lon Magdich’s stylish photography does a lot to disguise the lack of budget with shafts of smoky light and moody shadows, but the production design doesn’t offer a lot of texture and the largely wide-angle compositions avoid hard edges. Colors are natural without much in the way of bite and the film grain can appear a bit dirty, mainly in the darkest shots. Print and compression artifacts are minimum, verging on nonexistent.
Lovers Lane is presented in uncompressed LPCM and its original stereo sound. Dialogue has precedent in most scenes and can be muffled depending on where the film crew is shooting; for example, outdoor environments prove difficult for the recording equipment and incidental noise slightly drowns out performances, while interiors sound clear and consistent. BC Smith’s musical score sits nicely in the stereo channels without overwhelming anything important, but various pop songs (all apparently on loan from BMI, so I’m guessing that Ward was handed a catalog of music he could afford to use) are mixed a tad too loud, again, probably due to budget and equipment limitations.
Commentary with Geof Miller and Rory Veal – The writer/producer duo, who were very hands-on during filming, discuss the making of the movie, various locations, building their script around the budget, the careers & lives of cast & crew members, and losing out on a minor theatrical release due to the lack of gore.
Screaming Teens: The Legacy of Lovers Lane (31:37, HD) – Miller & Veal are joined by actors Matt Riedy and Carter Roy on this retrospective interview featurette. The writer/producers overlap with some of their commentary info, but they also delve a little more into their careers and it’s good to have a more concise version of that original discussion. The actors offer their perspective on horror movies, the rest of the cast, and working with the director.
The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be seen by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.