I have to confess up front that I’m curious as to how MURDERLUST obtained such a cult following. The film was released in the middle of the 80s, right after the peak of the slasher genre, but it is the tamest horror movie I’ve seen in years. It offers no gore, barely any blood, no nudity, and just a few F-bombs toward the end. Not that profanity or nudity are needed to make a good fright flick, but no carnage? I was very surprised.
So that brings up the question: is MURDERLUST a good horror film? The answer is not so simple. The movie does have merits, and I suppose it is entertaining on some levels…but on a horror scale, it barely registers. I did enjoy the film overall as a whole, but I can guarantee many horror fans will not like it at all.
If you are not familiar with MURDERLUST, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Intervision and CAV Distribution:
From enigmatic director Donald M. Jones comes one of the most disturbing and rarely seen serial killer sagas of the 80s: By day, mild-mannered Steve Belmont (Eli Rich of THE JIGSAW MURDERS) is a clean-cut teacher and youth counselor at his Los Angeles church. But by night, he’s a sexual psychopath who murders prostitutes and dumps their bodies in the Mojave Desert. Ashley St. Jon (TAKIN IT OFF) co-stars in this overlooked and effective (Horrorpedia) chiller, now with an all-new audio commentary and available uncut on DVD for the first time ever.
I think labeling this film as a thriller might be more appropriate. Yes, it deals with a serial killer, but it lacks the air of terror that goes along with horror films. The film comes across as more of a character study rather than a slasher flick.
MURDERLUST is shot fairly well, although I admit it’s pretty obvious it is a low budget movie. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as independent films should be applauded…however the poor camera quality and the lack of any real special effects does detract a bit from the movie experience.
The acting is surprisingly good. Many independent, lower budget films suffer from a lack of acting talent. Not so here. Eli Rich does a fine job and gives a chilling performance as the serial killer, Steve Belmont. Rich’s ability to shift from Sunday school teacher to cold, ruthless killer is almost unnerving. The rest of the cast does a good job as well, although nobody else has a standout performance.
The story is decent, and the fact that the killer is hiding in plain sight (posing as an upstanding citizen/Sunday school teacher) is a nice bit. The plot does drag some in the middle, but the last third of the film is nice and tension-filled.
Unfortunately, MURDERLUST never really takes off. Granted, it does have some tense moments toward the end, but nothing major really happens, and the “grand finale” never really appears. I think this lackluster ending is part of what let me down the most. I was willing to overlook a lack of gore if the terror level spiked, but the film never gets that far.
Still, MURDERLUST is somewhat entertaining, in a TV-Movie-of-the-Week sort of way. Director Donald Jones has made several films since this one, and I’m curious to see how they turned out; based on MURDERLUST, it’s obvious he has talent, so I’d like to see what he could do with a decent budget. In regard to this film, it is available now if you decide to give it a look.