(director/writer: Gary Sherman; screenwriter: Karen Clark; cinematographer: Alex Nepomniaschy; editor: Ross Albert; music: Joe Renzetti; cast: Stacy Keanan (Lisa), Cheryl Ladd (Katherine), Jeffrey Tambor (Mr. Marks), Edan Gross (Ralph), Elizabeth Gracen (Mary), D.W. Moffett (Richard), Tanya Fenmore (Wendy), Julie Cobb (Mrs. Marks); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Gary Sherman/Frank Yablans; CBS/Fox (United Artists); 1990)
“Well-crafted serial killer thriller.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Gary Sherman (“Vice Squad”/”After the Shock”/”Poltergeist III“) is director and co-writer with Karen Clark of this stylish and well-crafted serial killer thriller. It follows along the lines of Hitchcock’s Psycho. It’s set in the LA ‘burbs. Perky 14-year-old Lisa (Stacy Keanan) is strictly raised by her flower-shop owner, hard-working, repressed, over-protective single mom Katherine (Cheryl Ladd). Mom as a teen was abandoned by her lover when pregnant with Lisa, and has since a strong paranoid distrust of men. Mom’s tough rules are meant to ensure that her daughter doesn’t make the same mistake she did. She also offers her daughter tough love. The adolescent grouses with best friend Wendy Marks (Tanya Fenmore) about her over-bearing mom when not allowed to date until the age of 16, as Wendy wants her to go on a double-date with her. Lisa complains that she feels odd that others her age are allowed to date when she can’t.

Lisa relieves her personal frustrations by making prank phone calls to men that she secretly photographs. When Lisa accidentally bumps into a handsome stranger on the street, she gets his phone number by tracing his license plates. Learning that his name is Richard (D.W. Moffett) and that he owns a chic restaurant, she calls him as a prank and poses as an older woman interested in him. Her one call leads to a series of calls with the smooth operator. It turns out that Richard is a serial killer, known as the notorious Candlelight Killer, terrorizing the city’s female population and has so far seven killings. What’s more he uses the same means as Lisa to track down his vics.

Things get scary for the confused kid when she carries her prank calls too far and the sicko learns her phone number and address. He then decides to make her his next victim.

It might be too talky and too message-bound in its warning to parents to loosen-up or risk losing their kids, but it does a nice job of getting into a mother-daughter relationship that that suddenly goes awry because of mistrust and making poor decisions.