Genre movie fans owe a debt of gratitude to boutique distributors such as Vinegar Syndrome. Thanks to them, some truly bizarre films are being preserved and made available to the public. In some cases this is their first ever home video release and in other cases it is in a beautifully restored version, where the movie looks as if it were brand new. The movie at hand today is called Luther the Geek. It is a truly odd feature from 1988 that features a clucking killer who never says a word, and some truly unsettling atmosphere. No, it is not the best film, but it is surprisingly effective and certainly worth the effort to watch.
The film was finished, but due to money and legal issues the original company ended up dumping it to VHS. Unfortunately, it did not arrive at a very opportune time and the film virtually disappeared. I have read of 2 prior DVD releases, but both were sourced from a poor quality full frame VHS release. This disk has been scanned and restored from original 35mm camera elements. The result is pretty stunning, regardless of what you think of the film, there is no denying that this is the best it has looked since it was shot.
Written and directed by Carlton J. Albright, it is a violent, tense, country-fried slasher. It is the second and final film made by Albright. In 1980 he released a film about children changed into killers by nuclear radiation, called The Children. This movie is considerably more violent and just different from his first film. I watch it and am unsure if it is meant to be a commentary on society or just to tell a story. I ultimately don’t much care.
As Luther the Geek begins we witness a caged oddball bite the head off of a live chicken. One of those in attendance is a boy named Luther, who gets knocked down and loses his front teeth. After this scene, we pick up the story years later. It turns out that Luther grew up, but had gained a blood thirst and had murdered some folks by biting them with the metal dentures he got to replace his knocked out teeth. Luther is in jail and we watch the prison staff discussing and voting on whether or not Luther should be set free. Needless to say, he is and he probably shouldn’t have.
It is not long before Luther is up to his old tricks. We watch him walk into a grocery store and begin to eat raw eggs right out of the carton. Of course, this leads to him being kicked out of the store. This leads directly to his first kill, a poor old woman waiting at the bus stop. He only mistake was dropping an egg Luther had offered as a gift.
Before long, Luther hides in the back of the car of a woman returning home from the grocery store. This is where the bulk of the film takes place. Luther ties up and tortures the woman, and that carries over to when her daughter and her boyfriend return home. There are extended scenes of stalking and torment, all of which have a nicely cumulative affect.
There really is not a lot to this movie. It really boils down to stalk and slash. The hook is the idea that the killer got his killing method from a carnival geek. Beyond that, it does the odd thing of the killer taking on the persona of a chicken. Well, maybe not, but he does not speak and has a habit of clucking like a hen when stalking his victims.
Edward Terry stars as Luther and proves to be a rather terrifying presence. There is a physicality to him, the way he moves, his facial expressions, they are all quite imposing. Then when he begins to cluck, yes it is weird, but it is also really unsettling. He is the number one reason to watch this movie. It may not really break new ground, but it gives us a terrifying bad guy with little backstory to explain him. There is enough, but not too much to distract, On the other side of the story, you have Stacy Haiduk (Superboy, Seaquest 2032) as the tormented daughter and Joan Roth as her mother, playing the primary victims and being absolutely terrified.
I have to be honest, I am surprised by how much I liked this movie. I thought there was a nice buildup and some great atmosphere. Our killer is effective and even has a rather sad ending. There is some nice blood and sequences of torment. No, it isn’t going to be for everyone, but I liked how absurd the premise seems to be, yet how controlled and effectively scary the final result is.