Lucker the Necrophagous is a 1986 Belgian exploitation film directed and produced by Johan Vandewoestijne.
The film stars Nick Van Suyt as the eponymous anti-hero, with Helga Vandevelde, Let Jodts, Marie-Paule Claes, Martine Scherre, Carry Van Middel, John Edwards, Tony Castillo, Frank Van Laecke, and Freek Neiryrick.
A serial killer awakens from a coma and escapes from a mental hospital to kill a survivor of his slayings years ago, all the while stalking, terrifying, and killing victims on the way…
Lucker is a wonderfully sordid piece of filth about a slobbish corpse lover whose tastes run to the more matured cadaver. That is, although he chooses young women as his victims, he feels that corpses, like jugged hare or a good cheese, improve when left to rot for a while.
Necrophilia is a subject often alluded to in horror movies, and it provides a motivating subtext to several of the genre’s classics. Yet even in the eighties, when taboos were being trampled into cliché, few movies explored the subject in all its potentially rancid detail. Though necrophilia is frequently aestheticised, indeed poeticised, in studies of the genre, one suspects that Lucker’s bluntness in depicting the act itself would find scant favour with many critics.
The film takes place with minimal dialogue, and ‘John Lucker’ himself coasts through the film on a few noncommittal grunts, only breaking his silence near the end when he launches a tirade at an audience of two trussed-up victims, in distressing scenes reminiscent of certain aspects of the Ted Bundy case.
Most horror films have their set-pieces and Lucker boasts one of extraordinary repulsiveness, elevating the movie to a very distinguished sleaze level. Our degenerate lead straps a young prostitute to a bed and messily cuts her throat, after which he covers her with a sheet. A week goes by and the killer stays put in the stuffy apartment, whilst the passage of time is marked out by title cards and a monotonous voice-over listing each day. We see him lounging around, drinking beer, smoking cigarettes and gazing inscrutably out of the window. Eventually, when he can stand the anticipation no more, he returns to the bedroom and uncovers the corpse…
For a human cadaver, green and purplish discolouration of flesh and gaseous swelling of the abdomen occurs in about five to six days. Sure enough, Lucker’s lady friend is now bloated, mis-shapen and severely discoloured. Nonetheless he shows signs of considerable arousal, fingering the slimy flesh and licking his fingers in a scene guaranteed to revolt just about anyone. Fetid foreplay over, time for the main sordid course. The following scenes of steaming passion are about as explicit as you would wish to see and will probably finish off any hardy souls still watching the movie.
Nick Van Suyt, who played John Lucker, turned in a real trouper’s performance. It takes an actor of considerable élan to breathe life into such a scuzzy character, so it’s all the sadder to report that according to Vandewoestijne, Van Suyt committed suicide some time ago.
A set-piece as immense as this could unbalance a lesser film, with the surrounding scenes paling into blandness. Fortunately the extreme nature of Lucker’s obsessive desire is carefully underscored in the surrounding material which shows him as a lone outsider wandering through sterile and deserted locations.
From a virtually empty hospital, through a couple of dingy small towns, each setting contributes to the movie’s detached and clinical tone. Vandewoestijne evidently appreciates the importance of spatial composition as a means of creating mood – in one extended and coldly impressive scene he films Van Suyt walking listlessly down the centre lane of an apparently disused motorway, with the concrete pillars of an overpass providing subdued but stylish framing.
There appears to have been a conscious decision to discourage attempts to understand or ‘identify’ with Lucker – his almost total silence and predilection for ’70s-style mirrored shades inhibit such urges. This is in contrast to William Lustig’s Maniac for instance, a film not dissimilar to Lucker in tone, which used voice-over mumblings from lead actor Joe Spinell to draw audiences closer to the twisted mind of the killer. Nor is there any attempt to place the character in a moral context. He just is, and the director maintains a detachment from considerations of right and wrong wholly in keeping with the alienated lead character.
The film terminates on an enigmatic note. The killer drags two women into the cellar beneath his flat and subjects them to hideous torments, including forced oral contact with a severed human head. One of the women survives, escaping through a maze of underground passageways. During the chase Lucker is apparently thrown down a lift shaft, but in a confusing coda we see a figure in the street stoop to pick up a photograph from the pavement. Glimpsed just fleetingly, the figure resembles Lucker.
Shot in 1985 on 16mm in the town of Kortrijk, Belgium, Lucker’s subsequent fate has been ironic; the negative and film elements were destroyed outright thanks to the indiscriminate actions of a law firm who closed up the distributors after they filed for bankruptcy. The original film is only available today in a grubby VHS transfer.
Vandewoestijne went on to produce The Evil Dead-influenced manic Les Mémés cannibales (1988), better known under it’s Troma-distributed title, Rabid Grannies. In 2014, he announced his return to feature directing with Todeloo, a film about a female toilet attendant, a drug-dealing tax collector and a serial killer who flushes human body parts down the drains.
Stephen Thrower, MOVIES and MANIA
A re-edited version by writer/director Johan Vandewoestijne was released worldwide in May 2007. The new edition was shown by the Flemish Film Museum and archive in Kortrijk. It is available on a US Synapse Films DVD from Amazon.com
“Far be it from me to sound all high and mighty on the subject matter; I’m guilty myself of taking in one or two sordid delights, yet I wonder what the whole point of Lucker really is? The trouble I find is that director Vandewoestijne doesn’t have a clue as to what makes a good film. There isn’t a single idea to be found in regards to making something that remotely resembles some form of entertainment.” The Digital Fix