Lovers Lane (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Arrow Films
Review written by and copyright: Paul Lewis (21st May 2023).
The Film

Lovers Lane (Jon Steven Ward, 1999)

Newly released on Blu-ray by Arrow Video, Jon Steven Ward’s Lovers Lane was one of a notable number of teen-oriented neo-slasher movies made in the wake of the critical and commercial success of Wes Craven’s Scream in 1996. Lovers Lane sits alongside other pictures such as I Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legend, Valentine, and Cherry Falls – all of which revisited the motifs of stalk-and-slash films of the 1980s. Scream’s sharp script, by Kevin Williamson, foregrounded a very metafictional sense of self-awareness that was often imitated by the neo-slasher films that followed it: Scream’s imitators were riddled with self-referential nods towards the paradigms of the slasher movie, often highlighting these explicitly in the dialogue in order to deconstruct them on a narrative level. However, surprisingly (and arguably refreshingly) Lovers Lane is relatively devoid of this and takes a much more “straight” and unfussy approach to its material. In the extra features on this disc, the co-writers (and co-producers) suggest that early drafts of the script included more humour and more self-referential elements, but these were toned down during rewrites. This, the film’s producers suggest, give Lovers Lane a “timeless” quality.

Lovers Lane begins on “Valentine’s Day, 13 Years Ago,” a title card informs us. A young couple, Jimmy (Carter Roy) and Dee-Dee (Deirdre Kilgore) are necking in the former’s car, parked on the titular “Lovers Lane.” They are attacked by a man wielding a hook for a hand; fleeing, they stumble across the bodies of two murder victims, Ward Lamson (Brian Allemand) and Harriet Anderson (Erin J Dean) – both of whom are married, to the town’s high school principal, Penny (Suzanne Bouchard), and the sheriff, Tom (Matt Riedy), respectively.

A derelict, Ray Hennessey (Ed Bailey), is arrested for the murders, the hook he wears in place of one of his hands seeming to tie him to the killings. Tom’s half-brother, Dr Jack Grefe (Richard Sanders), is the chief psychiatrist at the local mental hospital, and reasons that Ray was obsessed with Harriet and was therefore motivated to murder Harriet and Ward owing to sexual jealousy.

In the present, Harriet and Tom’s daughter Mandy (also played by Erin J Dean) is in her final year of high school, as is Ward and Penny’s son Michael (Riley Smith). However, where Michael hangs with the cool kids, including his popular but bratty girlfriend Chloe (Sarah Lancaster) – who is the daughter of widower Jack – the bookish Mandy is seen as something of an outcast and the butt of her peers’ jokes.

When Chloe gets wind of Michael’s plan to break up with her, she enacts her cruel revenge by almost drowning Michael in the school swimming pool. The pair are hauled in front of the principal, Michael’s mother, and Michael is punished by being grounded.

However, that evening the popular kids at school have planned an adult-free Valentine’s Day party, and Michael sneaks out of his house to join his friends. He is, however, unaware that Chloe is plotting to get her revenge on him. Meanwhile, at the mental hospital Ray Hennessey has escaped, and Jack believes he is heading back into the town in order to enact his revenge on Tom, Penny, and their families.

Notably, where “golden age” slasher movies often featured an antagonist who – if not always supernatural – was positioned as unstoppable, the antagonists of the neo-slasher movies of the late-90s and early-00s were invariably deeply human and profoundly fallible. In fact, the plotting of the neo-slasher movies arguably had more in common with Agatha Christie-styled “whodunits,” and featured killers who – like those in this cycle’s chief inspiration, Scream – are unmasked at the end in a very Scooby Doo-esque manner. Lovers Lane is no exception to this. Though for at least some of the film, we are led to believe that the murders may be being committed by escaped mental patient Ray Hennessey, even semi-astute viewers will quickly realise that there is more to these events than meets the eye.

The film opens with a scene in which a young couple, Jimmy and Dee-Dee, are shown necking in a car before being scared by “The Hook,” fleeing, and then discovering the corpses of Harriet and Ward in a nearby vehicle. This opening sequence foregrounds two of the core features of slasher movies – female nudity (from Deirdre Kilgore) and some gore effects (on the dead bodies of Harriet and Ward) – but much of what follows in the main body of the picture is relatively “tame” by the standards of teen slasher movies. That said, about two-thirds of the way through the picture there is a quite unpleasant symbolic rape, in which one of the female characters is, whilst sitting on a bed, assaulted by the killer who, hiding under the bed, buries the hook into her crotch.

The film’s core premise (a killer wielding a pirate-like hook instead of one of his hands) being inspired by the popular urban legend of “The Hook” (or “The Hookman,” according to some tellings of the tale). This urban legend has sometimes been claimed to have originated in the wake of the 1946 Texarcana Moonlight Murders, in which male-female couples in secluded spots were attacked by one or more unidentified perpetrators; these still-unsolved crimes were themselves the basis for the 1976 film The Town That Dreaded Sundown. Crimes that take place at “lovers’ lanes” are fairly common and well-documented, however: the Zodiac killer and the Monster of Florence both favoured stalking victims parked at isolated “necking” spots.

Where the final shooting script of Lovers Lane toned down the Scream-esque “meta” humour that was reputedly present in earlier drafts, the finished film is nevertheless identifiable as a late-90s neo-slasher via the employment of Kevin Williamson-style psychobabble in the script. Following the discovery of the corpses of Harriet and Ward, for example, Jack describes Ray’s supposed infatuation with Harriet as an example of “extreme nonparaphilic sexual attachment.” Meanwhile, Jack rationalises Ray’s (presumed) murder of Harriet and Ward by suggesting Ray was motivated to commit these crimes through sexual frustration and jealousy: “you went up there to watch them,” Jack tells Ray during a doctor-patient session in the mental hospital, “The young boys, the young girls. Doing what you wanted to do. What you dreamed of doing.” Later, when Chloe attempts to fuck Brad in his car, in order to get her revenge on Michael for trying to dump her, Brad asks Chloe what she is trying to do. “Self-actualising,” she responds. The use of such terminology places Lovers Lane very much in that period of horror films that took inspiration from Kevin Williamson’s dialiogue in Scream (and elsewhere – for example, in Williamson’s scripts for the television show Dawson’s Creek).

In more modern parlance, Ray – like so many slasher movie antagonists – would probably attract the label “incel.” He is an outsider; but then, so is Mandy, who is the subject of ridicule by the “cool kids” at the school. At one point, one of Many’s peers refers to her, disparagingly, as the “lesbo librarian,” one of a number of homophobic slurs that pepper the dialogue. (These slurs are there to highlight the immaturity of the characters who use them, but they also jar with more current sensibilities.) At the cold, heartless centre of the popular kids is the narcissistic Chloe, who Mandy describes to a peer as a member of the “varsity psycho squad.” (For her part, Chloe describes herself as “the best piece of ass in this town.”)

Chloe is an entitled brat, convinced she can stay out of trouble because her father is a respected psychiatrist and her uncle is the town sheriff. In fact, the fairly convoluted familial and inter-generational relationships form the core of the film, and it’s difficult to write about this without spoiling a major “twist” in the film’s narrative. Nevertheless, suffice to say, by its denouement Lovers Lane strikes the viewer as a film that is focused on twisted family dynamics and inter-generational trauma: a “good” family is pitted against a “bad” family, with the former ultimately prevailing. The “bad” family’s focus on sexual deviance and obsession, and sadism, seems to be their inheritance. As the poet Philip Larkin famously wrote, “They fuck you up, your mum and dad / They may not mean to, but they do / They fill you with the faults they had / And add some extra, just for you.”

Lovers Lane was also released on UK DVD under the title I’m Still Waiting for You. In retrospect, this is a fairly silly retitling, with little to anchor it in the plot, and its sole purpose for existing seemed to be an attempt to ape the syntax of the title of I Know What You Did Last Summer and its sequel, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.


The disc presents the viewer with the option of watching Lovers Lane either in the 4:3 ratio (labelled as “Original Version” in the disc menus) or 1.85:1 (labelled as “Alternative Version”). As the film was released straight to video/DVD, the 4:3 presentation may be considered the original (or intended) aspect ratio. However, the 1.85:1 presentation (which is matted to that ratio) seems perfectly fine, and compositions seem balanced throughout; one wonders whether the film was lensed with the intention of it being seen at 1.85:1.

The film fills 22gb of space on its Blu-ray disc, and is uncut with a running time of 89:07 mins. The 1080p presentations use the AVC codec.

The presentation is billed by Arrow as being based on a new 2k scan of the original camera negative. The film was shot on 35mm colour stock; despite the film heading for straight-to-video release, shooting on 35mm was a requirement for seeking overseas distribution, as explained by the film’s producers in the extra features on this disc. (We can be thankful that such straight-to-video US productions were shot on film, enabling them to find new presentations on HD formats such as this, as opposed to, for example, Japan’s contemporaneous DTV movies captured on standard def video formats.)

For a relatively low budget picture, Lovers Lane has some striking lighting and photography, which really shines in this HD presentation. There is some wonderful use of chiaroscuro lighting, and some excellent, memorable shots of characters walking towards the camera holding torches (or flashlights, for US-based readers). In fact, the film’s lighting scheme seems very firmly placed during that period in which movies were trying to emulate the distinctive aesthetic of the then-popular TV show The X Files. (Interestingly, Lon Magdich, the film’s director of photography, seems to have spent most of the last two decades working in non-fiction television.)

The level of fine detail present within the image is pleasing. The aforementioned use of chiaroscuro lighting results in a number of scene that feature noticeably “crushed” shadows: this seems more to be a characteristic of the low-light (and often single-source) photography rather than a quality of the transfer to Blu-ray. The presentation retains the structure of 35mm film, with noticeably heavy grain in some of the night-time scenes. (Again, this suggests the production stretching the 35mm colour film stock to its limits during low-light photography.) Contrast levels elsewhere are pleasing, with defined midtones and subtle gradation into both the “toe” and “shoulder.” Highlights are balanced and not blown out. In terms of damage, there are a few noticeable vertical scratches and white flecks suggesting debris on the negative. The encode to disc is fine, ensuring that accounting for the heavy grain in the low-light scenes (a result of stretching the 35mm film to its limits, in terms of its ability to capture light), the grain structure of the film is preserved without uncomfortable digital artifacts.

NB. Some full-sized screengrabs are included at the bottom of this review. Please click to enlarge them. (These screengrabs are taken from the 1.85:1 presentation of the movie.)


Audio is presented (on both presentations of the film) via a LPCM 2.0 stereo track. This is robust and displays strong range; dialogue is audible throughout. Optional English subtitles are included, and these are both easy to read and accurate in transcribing the film’s dialogue.


The disc includes the following:
- Audio commentary with writer-producers Geof Miller and Rory Veal. The pair begin by talking about some of the differences between the opening of the script and the finished version of the opening sequence. (Apparently the script opened with a sweeping helicopter shot that was unachievable owing to the relatively low budget.) Miller and Veal praise the input of the actors in the movie. After some conversation about the figure of actress Deirdre Kilgore (which is “on show” in the film’s opening moments), the pair discuss the origins of the movie in the tale of “The Hook.” They discuss the casting of the picture and the performances, and how the project was reworked throughout the preproduction and production phases. It’s an excellent commentary, with Miller and Veal conversing warmly with one another and offering insight into the production of a low-budget slasher movies such as this.

- “Screaming Teens: The Legacy of Lovers Lane” (31:37). This new featurette includes comments from writer/producers Geof Miller and Rory Veal, and actors Matt Riedy and Carter Roy. The participants were interviewed separately, their comments edited together with footage from the completed film. They discuss the premise of the film and its roots in the folklore of “The Hook.” The original version of the script had more comic and self-referential elements – which placed the project more closely in the realms of Scream, etc – which were removed during rewrites. The filmmakers suggest that they tried to show restraint in terms of the depiction of violence, and the major point of reference for both Miller and Veal was 1950s television and cinema, with references to 1950s culture worked into the script in various ways. When Jon Steven Ward became attached to the project as director, he also contributed to the script, helping to restructure some sequences in order to give them more dramatic potential. We are also told that shooting on 35mm was a requirement for foreign distribution; Geof Miller recalls watching a screening of a 35mm answer print at Warner Bros, and thinking that “This is good enough to be in movie theatres.” However the film was released directly to video; fortunately a deal with Blockbuster for the US VHS rights resulted in the film recouping its production costs (about $500,000) in one fell swoop. Deals with distributors in overseas territories helped to ensure the film made a respectable profit.

It’s worth noting, for first time viewers of the film, that this featurette contains some heavy spoilers for the plot.

- Trailer (1:55).

- Image Gallery (109 images). This is a gallery of production stills, of both “behind the scenes” moments and posed portraits. It seems evident that the low budget did not extend to a dedicated unit stills photographer, as a number of the photographs are taken on low-ISO colour stock, in low-light, and feature noticeable camera shake/blur. It’s great to see these images, but highlights how often low budget productions sidestep the importance of having a dedicated stills photographer.


Buried in the late-90s/early-00s surge of neo-slasher movies, Lovers Lane has been resurrected by Arrow Video on this new Blu-ray release. It’s an interesting film, one that stands apart from many of its contemporaries through its refusal to engage in the metafictional/self-referential back-and-forth of the likes of I Know What You Did Last Summer and Urban Legend. That said, some elements mark Lovers Lane as distinctly of the late-90s, including the X Files-esque use of torchlight and shadow (and, more unpleasantly, the abundance of casually-thrown homophobic slurs in the dialogue).

At the core of the film is an examination of family and grief: all three families in the film are united by grief. Jack and Chloe grieve for Chloe’s mother, dead in an apparent suicide before the film begins; and Tom and Penny grieve for their spouses, murdered whilst engaged in what is claimed to be an extramarital tryst at the titular “Lovers’ Lane.” (That said, some later narrative events explode the narrative that has been constructed around the murders of Harriet and Ward.)

Lovers Lane is ultimately an interesting picture, one worthy of reappraisal, and Arrow’s new Blu-ray release gives the film a new lease of life. Thankfully, though destined for the straight-to-video marketplace, Lovers Lane was shot on film; and aside from offering a new HD presentation taken from the 35mm negative, Arrow’s Blu-ray release offers both the familiar 4:3 presentation and a new 1.85:1 presentation. (It would seem reasonable to assume, viewing the latter, that the film was shot “protected” for 1.85:1 too, though there’s no confirmation of this in the extra features.)

The film is accompanied by some strong contextual material too. Both the commentary track (with writer-producers Geof Miller and Rory Veal) and the featurette (which features input from Miller and Veal, alongside members of the cast) explore the production of the film and situate it firmly within the late-90s neo-slasher trend. Fans of the slasher movie, or particularly of the neo-slasher revival, will find this to be an essential purchase.

Please click the below screengrabs to enlarge them.



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