Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Lucker The Necrophagous : Evolution

My recent bumping across a Lucker The Necrophagous trailer had me thinking about my hard walking, corpse crawling pal LUCKER. I don't think this bit of reportage (from 2003) is still online, so I thought it would be nice to save. I have not re-edited it, but can bring you up to date a bit. The film was finally released by Synapse to very little positive critical reaction but hey, LUCKER is on DVD. This was a bootlegged staple, and when I learned that it was censored (!!) it was a mind blower. This film was the second (and last) acquisition of the short lived Chrome Entertainment, which also grabbed the rights to Thriller-A Cruel Picture / They Call Her One Eye-a film my readers know that I'm still obsessive over. SEE??

The Prez of Chrome wanted a splatter film, and Lucker was grim and grueling enough to really count. And you know...I actually have a soft spot in my black little film heart for it. Thriller turned out to be a great title at Synapse and Lucker was a throw in, but if you divide the deal that Chrome gave by two...well, it certainly was an excellent move for some folks to make and take.

In the end, the deal with Synapse emboldened my pal Johan to expand and restore, as best as possible, what he had originally made with Lucker. The changes are for the better, though I never would have deleted the awesome Lucker rock song. Thankfully, you can get the old cut with it on the Synapse disc I believe (I still haven't seen it!)-and if the documentary is the same I even get a nice mention as a "great American writer" or something like that. Debatable point, but I'll take it.
You see, after this article I worked with the original director, "James Desert" himself on a screenplay for a new Lucker film. Less walk, more kill could be the tag line...I've long threatened to simply novelize it so that the story gets told, and I really should get to it. Also, the good folks at Indie Gods (now Wildside Cinema) were ready to do a comic book based on the story!
Lucker, the franchise that never always makes me smile. I would love to see it happen though, I even snuck in a tribute to Christina Lindberg as a finale for the film.
Of course...
You can also read a comic script for Lucker The Necrophagous #1 here. Jeez...I forgot there was so much Lucker in my life!

So, here is an essay on Lucker loaded with details on the film, back to walk around the net and put a little Lucker in your (not beating) heart!


The Evolution of A Celluloid Necrophile

Lucker the Necrophagous is one weird film… and I mean that lovingly. Notorious both in it’s content of extreme gore and necrophilia as well as it’s status as a most frequently traded title amongst horror fans, this virtually unreleased film has remained in many review books and bootleg catalogs for over 15 years. Obviously a micro budget effort, director Johan Vandewoestijne’s serial killer walks about thirty miles in the films short running (walking?) time, mainly to fill the gaps between horrific vignettes. While that may be memorable, what really stands out is Lucker’s sadistic streak and genuinely appalling behavior. Actor Nick Van Suyt forgoes any shame and hops on the corpses with great aplomb, and it’s made worse by the fact the film takes the time to show those corpses rotting before he lays his finger, and much more, on them. Frankly, when it’s getting nasty, Lucker doesn’t fuck around at all…the movie is flat out disturbing.

While waiting hopefully for government funding on another project, the director/producer realized that this would be the time to try to make something… different. And in order to make a successful film in an international market, he would need to shoot his movie in English, a practice that the local government frowned upon, preferring to finance movies in Flemish for local release. So, with a disregarding of constraints and without hope of support, he decided to unleash a serial killer movie that would go beyond the others around it, at least in the gore market. Shot on 16mm and rough around the edges, the movie was a direct challenge to the art-film crowd in Belgium’s celluloid stomachs. Lucker the Necrophagous was to be anti-art at it’s most grotesque. Far from a perfect final film, Lucker does have some nasty gut wrenching sequences that have ensured it’s place in gore-fiends hearts.

But why is it so hard to find? And have YOU ever seen it uncut? As of yet, you haven’t… As infamous as the gore of Lucker has been in the past, it was originally much more intense…and graphic. In this article we’ll take a look at Lucker past, Lucker present…and yes, perhaps, Lucker future. The Necrophagous may very well be walking into your neighborhood again soon…and he won’t be walking nearly as much. This will be more akin to a maniac carving a deadly swath through everything in his path… and corpse sex.

Lucker the Necrophagous…the hidden years.

For well over a decade, bootlegs of this oddly titled film have circulated around the globe. I mean…necrophagous? Every print seems to be derived from the same source, with the film in English and containing Dutch subtitles. And it never looks particularly good… In this compromised form however, the rough edges of the production seem even rougher, and the gore sequences have an underground feel that feel strangely enhanced by the quality of the copy…dark and grimy. Underneath the 2 head VCR to VCR blur however, the special effects are good enough to make the scenes disturbing.

So, why no official release? Well, it certainly didn’t help that the film’s finished negative was destroyed by the producer!

Lucker the Necrophagous was picked up by VDS Brussels, a company that Vandewoestijne characterizes as utterly useless due to management issues. When they sent the film to be distributed by their sub-contractor, BDM Distribution, they ran into an issue where they would simply not release this disturbing little film. With only one French release on video in 1987 on VHS, Lucker sat twiddling his thumbs on the proverbial shelf until, not surprisingly, VDS went bankrupt. As that was happening Cult Video in Amsterdam bought a large number of the remaining VHS copies. It seems that this is the source for all of the bootlegs, though Cult Video was handling the title properly-it has remained the “master” for countless pirated copies. The company that handled the VDS bankruptcy received the negative as well as all positive prints of Lucker, and though they had the proper paperwork to return them to the rightful owners, they opted to instead destroy everything.

It wouldn’t be for three years after they were discarded that Vandewoestijne would find this out of course…I mean, he only created the film and assumed that everything was being done correctly as he had signed contracts in hand.

Needless to say, this would be a disconcerting turn of events for Lucker and his corpse molesting ways, not to mention his creator. But Johan did keep his Dutch subtitled master, and to this day, that is the closest element to the original. Don’t expect to ever see it without those subtitles sorry to say, but it certainly does not need to look quite as bad as most dupes have over the years. So with that passable element in hand, Lucker stumbled to market.

He wasn’t terribly successful, but he did get his grubby paws into some goremongers hearts, more by crook than legitimate hook. Bootlegs ran rampant and the legend grew.

In a an unforgettable review, genre reporting legend Chas. Balun stepped up with these words from his great (and still essential) Gore Score: Fat, ugly slob who makes Joe Spinell look like Mel Gibson porks putrescent pussy in this European atrocity that simply dares you to keep your cookies down during one overripe scene of scurrilously perverted foreplay. A rough ride.”

For the right reader (ahem, you are reading Gore Score after all), that sounds pretty interesting… and it’s on the money as well!

Four years after finding out that the elements were destroyed, Vandewoestijne received a call from the lab that processed all the original Lucker materials. They had something.

And that something was to become Lucker 1.2! It seems that all of the spare takes of Lucker were not turned over to VDS, and perhaps something could be made of the footage to create something marketable. In it’s current form, this version of Lucker makes for interesting viewing, and contains some very unexpected surprises.

Lucker Walks Again…but silently!

These spare takes struck Vandewoestijne as usable in the wake of losing all of the original footage, and while poking through these he discovered some extra gory and grotesque footage amongst the outtakes. This footage was rejected by the distributor-and if any viewer of the original found the gore harsh, they haven’t seen the truly raucous splatter sequences contained in these bits of film! The original Balun cookie tosser sentiment is even stronger in Lucker 1.2, with the true scope of Nick Van Suyt’s performance now coming into focus. After his suicide, one has to hope that Lucker had not haunted him. The original scenes are savage stuff, and if the film had been released without being tampered with by the distributors, it may have been an even more notorious film. Also notable is the rejection of some hardcore material that plays out in the background of one sequence. By changing this, a good bit of John Lucker’s character development is lost.

Sadly though, even under Johan’s steady editing hand many sequences still remain unfinished, and additional shooting and editing would be required to finish this retake of the film. Even after creating a wraparound tale (also quite disturbing on it’s own), the unfinished product is under 1 hour long. For fans of extreme cinema, and European gore films in specific, this would make an interesting viewing experience…and would certainly delight any fan of the original film. The only copy in existence of Lucker 1.2 is currently without any soundtrack at all, though the images speak clearly of what the film could be. What follows is a brief synopsis of this unique iteration of Lucker the Necrophagous by Johan Vandewoestijne:

A journalist is doing a story about the life of John Lucker. By going through the different files he has collected we see most of the original film as report footage.

However the more the journalist gets involved in the story of Lucker, the more fascinated he becomes with his activities. Eventually he feels the urge to cross the borderline of sanity and becomes a killer himself. His first victim is his ex-girlfriend who has left him for a younger man, and he seems to have learned his lessons from Lucker very well!.

However (by some coincidence) Lucker learns of the journalist's private investigation and feels threatened.

And if Lucker feels threatened it means that the journalist must be terminated. By using a hooker who lives on one of the lower floors he gains access to the building where the journalist's office is... To create confusion John Lucker uses another name (Mugler) when he kills the young hooker. To get away from the building he uses the undergroud sewer pipe, escaping to terrorize the living and the dead further.


In 2001, Johan was approached by a fledgling distribution outfit, Chrome Entertainment. They were very hot to release this seemingly forgotten necroflick on a gore hungry community of fans who would enjoy it. Providing the only remaining master, with burnt on Dutch subtitles, Johan was happy to let the Necrophagous walk again! But the curse of Lucker’s distribution would rear it’s dark head once more. Quickly folding up under itself, Chrome would never release a single title. However, Chrome Entertainment sold and entrusted all of it’s acquisitions to one of the steadiest hands in the specialty DVD game…Synapse Films. Synapse now has both versions of Lucker in hand, and with some scheduling and fan support, both Lucker the Necrophagous, and perhaps what remains of Lucker 1.2 could very well be on it’s way to a digital format in the future. While limited in it’s available elements, Lucker is one of the better “lost” slasher/serial killer films from the 80’s, and would worm it’s way into any collector’s heart with plenty of displeasure.

The future looks brighter than ever for John Lucker…good thing he is always wearing shades. He wears his sunglasses even when he is in the video store looking for someone to kill!

But the Walking is not done…LUCKER RETURNS.

After Lucker 1.2 had remained unfinished, the idea of remaking the film stayed with Vandewoestijne for some time. There is always room for more serial killer madness in the horror film market, but as is always the case in movie making it was a matter of time and circumstance. Other opportunities have kept Johan working, such as producing a string of films, including the recently released Junior (originally titled Engine Trouble). Junior is a mainstreamed slasher film that doesn’t go too far, but isn’t as bloodless as most direct to video horrors. Directed by Marc Icxx of industrial rock pioneers A Split Second and with several great tense moments, Junior is a fun eurohorror film. With this success in his pocket, Vandewoestijne again looked at his favorite serial necrophile… Lucker. With a script entitled Killer Switch, the re-incarnation of John Lucker would be complete. Instead of a simple remake however, this new version has Lucker running amok amongst the living…and the dead. If it’s possible to be more extreme than the necrophilia bits of the original, this film certainly could be. Using a plot that feeds off of the basics of Lucker the Necrophagous, it adds in an internet bondage dominatrix with a range of new murder sequences that could make for more cookie tossing antics. Several drafts have been written of Lucker: Killer Switch now, each more extreme than the last-and Johan has actively found a director for the project. All that remains is to secure distribution and create a film that could be a wonderful harkening back to the eurosplatter epics of a time seemingly gone by. Reading through a proposal for a sequel, the saga of John Lucker : Necrophagous could very well be a nice new angle for Eurohorror enthusiasts to get a fix of gore and mayhem the way they like it!

Wet, violent, dark and unafraid to scare you. Just don’t get yourself into a situation with Lucker, because first he’ll take your life and then he’ll take your corpse!

Thanks to Johan Vandewoestijne, Bruce Holecheck for last minute research assistance and the crew at Horror HQ for all the support.


Anonymous said...

I first saw Lucker on an original VHS (Dutch subs, no boot) back in the day, and since I've seen the DVD. Still, to me it's always been a big 'FU' exercise aimed toward the establishment and the Belgian VAF, as well as the pretentious 'arty' film schools.
Johan wasn't out to make a great film, and in my opinion that shows.
I don't really think it deserves the 'classic' label, which it received mainly due to its notoriety and rareness.

Yes, it has some gruesome scenes, but they can't compete with the otherwise tame and slow pace of the film, lacking a true vision or directional style.
I do think that it is on some level an important film, but I also like to look at it for what it is - who, why, when and for whom was it made - as that influences the end result.

It may be an unfair comparison, but I prefer the even lower budgetted Nekromantik, because of Jörgs vision, style and message. The reason this film bothers so many people is because they don't know what to make of it - is it trash, art, sexy and romantic or plain shock-value filth?
Lucker doesn't make you think on such levels, because as I stated earlier, it wasn't inteded to be a great film with a vision.

Just my 2 cents, as I don't really have a point, other than putting Lucker into another, maybe more objective(?) perspective.

David A. Zuzelo said...

I think your opinion is worth much more than 2 cents, and thanks for sharing it. It is true that Lucker is exactly what it is, a gross little splatter film. I will dig up my files interviewing Johan right around the same time this was written and he echoes many of your sentiments very well.

Again, thanks very much!