PRIME EVIL (1988)/LURKERS (1988) Blu-ray/DVD combo
Director: Roberta Findlay
Vinegar Syndrome

Vinegar Syndrome brings a Roberta Findlay duo to Blu-ray/DVD combo from their Crown International deal with PRIME EVIL and LURKERS.

In the thirteenth century at the height of the Black Death, monk Thomas Seaton (William Beckwith, TROMEO & JULIET) splits from the church to worship the devil, vowing to convert others to his cause with the promise of power and immortality. In modern day New England, Seaton is still doing the devil's work, guaranteeing his flock thirteen years of power and protection in exchange for the sacrifice of a blood relative. Having sacrificed his son more than a decade before, fifty-something looking eighty-four year old wealthy businessman George Parkman (Max Jacobs) now has plans for his granddaughter Alexandra (Christina Moore, ALEXA) who has remained a virgin since a childhood sexual trauma. Her mother Frances (Cameron Kell) warns her against associating with her ex-husband's "evil" family, but her mysterious death soon has a vulnerable Alexandra acquiescing to moving in with George and coming under the influence of Seaton. Seaton's less than priestly behavior rouses the suspicion of Alexandra's blue-balled fiancé Bill (Tim Gail, IF LOOKS COULD KILL) while anyone else who encourages Alexandra to get laid before the Winter Solstice – including oversexed best friend Brett (Amy Brentano, BLOOD SISTERS) – is dispatched by Seaton's asylum-escapee hitman Ben (George Krause) in a series of murder investigated by detective Dann Carr (Gary Warner, THRILLED TO DEATH) which all seem to point back to Alexandra. Meanwhile, nun Sister Angela (Mavis Harris, VIDEO VIOLENCE 2) – a previous victim-to-be of the cult – renounces her vows in order to infiltrate the cult for the Catholic Church. George is plotting with fellow cult member Alison (Roseanna Peterson) to overthrow Seaton and take over the cult himself, but Seaton may be interested in keeping Alexandra for himself.

In LURKERS, Moore is cellist Cathy who has lived in fear of the spectral presences called "Lurkers" who inhabited the brownstone building where she grew up and drove her mother to murder her father. About to marry photographer Bob (Warner), Cathy is once again tormented by visions of her murderous mother, a KILL BABY KILL-style little girl in white (Lauren Ruane) whose creepiness is undercut by her Bronx accent, and a mysterious woman (Eva Baumann) who warns her repeatedly "not to go home." Bob seems loving and patient with Cathy's hysterics – more so than her priest brother (Gil Newsom, ALIEN OUTLAW) – but he may not be all he seems since he's already scouting new talent (Carissa Channing, FRANKENHOOKER) and has other sinister dealings with his partner Monica (Marina Taylor). Invited to a trendy party at Bob's studio – which happens to be in the very building where she grew up – Cathy discovers far too late what anyone who has seen THE SENTINEL has already guessed.

Two of a handful of horror and exploitation films Roberta Findlay (SNUFF) shot and directed in the eighties which also included THE ORACLE, BLOOD SISTERS, TENEMENT, and PRIME EVIL following nearly a decade of hardcore films after the death of husband Michael Findlay (THE TOUCH OF HER FLESH), PRIME EVIL and LURKERS were penned by screenwriters Ed Kelleher and Harriette Vidal who had penned a number of horror paperbacks for Dorchester Publishing’s Leisure Books imprint, which also included "The School" and "Madonna" that were filmed in Canada as VOODOO DOLLS and MADONNA: A CASE OF BLOOD AMBITION in the nineties. The two films here both include secret societies of the damned, include some cheesy Ed French (BLOOD RAGE) make-up and creature effects, cheesecake nudity, and a surplus of extra victims stalked by hulking perverts – sledgehammer-swinging Leo (Tom Billett, RIOT ON 42ND STREET) in LURKERS – to pad out the running time as the heroine runs back and forth between various suspicious characters before the climax. PRIME EVIL is the better-acted of the two, with Beckwith wonderfully sinister, while LURKERS has the more "mysterious" plot and more novelty in the weirdness the heroine encounters. Produced, scored, and edited by sound engineer Walter E. Sear, PRIME EVIL is the better-scored of the two while LURKERS' accompaniment is overbearing (seemingly to compensate for the sparse sound design) but both are consistently good-looking productions thanks to the cinematography of Findlay who shot plenty of her late husband's output as "Anna Riva" along with assignments for other New York-area hardcore and softcore exploitation filmmakers.

Theatrically released by Crown International, PRIME EVIL was released on videotape by New World Entertainment and LURKERS by Media Home Entertainment. When Rhino had the Crown library in 1999, both films were released in one of their HORRIBLE HORRORS volumes derived from their tape masters. LURKERS was uncut while PRIME EVIL – also released separately – turned out to be the film's eighty-three minute television version. BCI released PRIME EVIL in a double feature with HORROR HIGH while LURKERS was doubled with BRAIN TWISTER, and both would find their way into various Mill Creek boxed sets. LURKERS was next licensed to Scorpion Releasing in 2013 in a double-bill with DIE, SISTER, DIE! in a new HD-mastered transfer that also included an isolated score option. Transferred from the original camera negatives in 2K, Vinegar Syndrome's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen presentations are vividly colorful and crisply detailed, calling attention to the finer points of Findlay's photography and lighting which is at times both eighties chic and expressionistic (a few exterior scenes in PRIME EVIL look softer but they are just poorly focused). Damage is virtually null and the negative for PRIME EVIL included a few brief shots not included in previous transfers (87:04 versus Mill Creek's 86:44). The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono tracks boast clear dialogue and scoring thanks to contributions of Sear (whose isolated scores are included in Dolby Digital 1.0). Optional English SDH subtitles are included for both with a handful of noticeable errors ("hearsay" in place of "heresy").

PRIME EVIL is accompanied by a new audio commentary track by Findlay moderated by Casey Scott who puts the filmmaker at ease and is able to get some good stories out of her, although she remains vague about some details and evasive about crew members who crossed over with her from sexploitation to horror. She reveals that Crown picked up the US rights for LURKERS and then commissioned PRIME EVIL, the only film on which she had had an investor, and provides some interesting information about the distribution history of her Reeltime films, distributing them theatrically in some territories and sublicensing to regional distributors, and licensing to home video companies (Sony Video Software was one of the few who paid residuals for BLOOD SISTERS). She also reveals that Media Blasters still plans to release her final theatrical feature BANNED which they bought outright along with THE ORACLE, GAME OF SURVIVAL, and BLOOD SISTERS. She provides some funny anecdotes about PRIME EVIL, including the Union Theological Seminary allowing them to shoot anything (implying even sex scenes) except a Black Mass which they ended up doing anyway, her own research into devil worship, the pranks played on her by the crew, Sear's many roles on the films and his clashes with the production designer, and an interesting discussion about shooting R-rated sex scenes. Also interesting is their discussion on her work as a cinematographer looking for a balance between economy (handheld in favor of dolly tracks) and making her films look good (using cookies and blinds to cast shadows on white walls, including a swastika cookie that a prank-playing gaffer slipped into a scene). A trailer is included for PRIME EVIL (2:11) while LURKERS is accompanied by a teaser (0:32) and trailer (1:18) while both sides of the reversible cover emphasize PRIME EVIL. (Eric Cotenas)