In 1990, a year before Silence of the Lambs hit theaters, one of my favorite almost-80s slashers hit video. Luther the Geek is a perfectly bizarre, hokey piece of trash that I love. Actually, if you let go of any preconceived notions of what makes a horror film good, Luther is a frickin’ freaky clucking, metal-toothed, chicken-head biting monster! Just look at that heinous image on the DVD cover!
But before we get to Luther, let’s talk about another freak—Troma president Lloyd Kaufman, who introduces every Troma DVD release. Now, I don’t always bother to sit through his intro (I’d much prefer Elvira’s camp) but the few times I’ve left the intro running while I was busy gathering up my popcorn and cherry cola, I’ve noticed some really “gay” comments being made by Kaufman in his monologue.
Well, I was once again doing my corn and cola gathering last night, and when I came back into the living room, Kaufman has two chicks on screen with him with pasties on their boobs, along with some bearded dude he is talking to about Luther the Geek. When the premise of the film is discussed, the bearded dude says–as he gets down on his knee–that he bites the head off cocks, too. WTF? Kaufman hastily suggests they not go that far but that there are other options. Cut to the pasties chicks to infuse a feeling of heterosexual maleness into the shenanigans. But then we cut back to a rear view of Kaufman, with the bearded dude’s hands on his hips, a lot of slurping noise, and Kaufman moaning and groaning as he introduces the movie. Again, WTF???
As if that weren’t gay enough, there’s even more gayness in the actual movie. Again, there are HUGE boobs, this time on the lead female character. When she showers with her muscular boyfriend, she turns him around, his palms against the tile as he assumes the position so she can “wash his back.” But then we get a close-up of his meaty butt as she pokes at his crack with the bar of soap. Have I mentioned…WTF???
Anyway, onto the serious stuff. Luther himself. The film begins with a narrator telling the story of how geeks were sideshow freaks that would bite the heads off chickens. We’re taken to 1938 Illinois where a bunch of rowdies are egging on a creepy geek in a cage…until he actually gnaws off a chicken head, at which time the men gasp in horror. A little boy who is watching, mesmerized, falls and hits his head, and when all the men leave, he reaches into the cage and rubs his fingers in the blood pooling from the beheaded chicken’s neck and licks his fingers. So immediately you’re left thinking “A-ha! He becomes Luther the Geek due to this traumatic childhood experience!”
But then the narrator comes back and says something like, “that’s not the kind of geek that this story is about…”
This story is about crazed murderer “Luther,” who’s out on parole. Luther is a seriously creepy looking bug-eyed guy, and although he’s not even hip hop, he has some serious grills that he made himself (sort of like Freddy making his glove in the opening of A Nightmare on Elm Street). The supposedly rehabilitated Luther immediately causes trouble in a grocery store and hops into the first unlocked car he finds to get away. He is conveniently driven to the isolated farm of a woman who doesn’t know he’s in her backseat.
The brutality and violence begin as soon as the woman starts unpacking her groceries. If this film were remade today, it would most likely be a seriously violent and torturous experience. There are threats of it as the non-speaking, clucking-only Luther ties the woman face-down in her bed after showing quite an interest in her crotch. But soon, the woman’s daughter and boyfriend arrive home so Luther hides.
This film seems intent on having every character make one stupid move after another. Daughter has a chance to untie her bound mom from the bed but instead leaves her there because she thinks her boyfriend is going to save the day. Girl then has to hide under bed as Luther returns, and when he leaves again, she stays under there for what seems like HOURS (it goes from daylight to night), her mom STILL tied to the bed!!! Cop comes to house and gets annoyed with mom and tells her to shut up even though she’s screaming bloody murder. Cop then leaves mom alone in the house with dead bodies all over the place because Luther has turned on his squad car’s sirens. And that’s just for starters. Your eyes will be rolling so fast that you’ll be seeing double.
But you have to just go with all the idiocy. Because the perfect performance in this film is the portrayal of Luther. Here you have one of those men who never made another film and is genuinely freaky. Who is he??? Does he act and look like this in real life??? How quickly will I drop dead if I ever run into him in the egg aisle of my grocery store???
It might sound stupid, but when Luther goes skulking around the house clucking with his bug eyes darting around, natural lighting effects (aka: no budget) creating genuine dark shadows, you can imagine yourself in that horrific situation. Add to that some excellent gore, an 80s-esque synth score, and some bad chicken puns along the way (including a reference to KFC). Hannibal Lecter may have scored an Oscar, but it’s Luther I turn to again and again.