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Film / Looker

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Looker is a 1981 science fiction film written and directed by Michael Crichton, starring Albert Finney, Susan Dey, and James Coburn.

Dr. Larry Roberts (Finney) is a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon whose patients are becoming victims of a serial killer targeting commercial actresses. One of his patients, Cindy Fairmont (Dey), is the killer's next victim. Roberts discovers that his patients have all been associated with a company called Digital Matrix, which is developing technology for computer-generated actors, and that one of the company's technologies may have been used by the serial killer.

Tropes associated with this film include:

  • Black Comedy: Some of the commercials that were being filmed near the end of the movie feature accidental cases of it with characters that are either dead or dying, such as Jon Reston's death during a Spurt toothpaste commercial with its slogan of making your mouth come to life.
  • Blinded by the Light: The L.O.O.K.E.R. gun, a strobe light weapon that doesn't blind its victims, but rather hypnotizes them which causes them to lose all sense of time.
  • Car Cushion: One of the commercial actresses falls to her death on top of a parked car from her apartment balcony. (Remarkably, this is in a PG movie.)
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: The commercial actress who comes to warn Dr. Roberts about someone killing all the other actresses he had worked on breaks out a cigarette and tries to find a lighter when the doctor kindly lights it for her.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: John Reston, played by James Coburn.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The commercials made in the plot play opposite the end credits.
  • Curtain Camouflage: The serial killer with the L.O.O.K.E.R. gun hides behind translucent curtains while stalking his prey, who cannot see him because the gun has rendered him invisible to her, and eventually wraps her up inside a curtain before she falls to her death.
  • Double-Meaning Title: It refers to both the commercial actresses being "lookers" and the device being used to kill them. Lampshaded in the film when Dr. Roberts is being taken in by Reston Industries security men and he asks them about the L.O.O.K.E.R. gun, only for them to talk about the women passing by their vehicle being "lookers".
  • '80s Hair: An early example, particularly with the actresses in the New Wave shampoo commercial.
  • Fanservice: Well, duh. There are a lot of lovely models and two nude scenes from Lisa and Cindy.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Light Ocular-Oriented Kinetic Emotive Responses (L.O.O.K.E.R.)
  • Groin Attack: Dr. Roberts delivers one to the serial killer.
  • Hypno Ray: The L.O.O.K.E.R. gun which poses as a strobe light gun, but actually uses light to hypnotize its victims so that they lose all sense of time, rendering the user of the gun invisible to their victims.
  • Hypnotic Eyes: Digital Matrix creates computer-generated actors that have hypnotic eyes that cause the viewers to fall into a trance so that they would be receptive to whatever message the producers want to communicate through the TV commercials.
  • Impersonating an Officer: In the climax, Dr. Roberts incapacitates two police officers who are working for the bad guys and dons the uniform of one of them so that he can infiltrate the Digital Matrix exposition.
  • Magic Mirror: A parody of Snow White's talking magic mirror appears in the Ravish perfume commercial.
  • Mass Hypnosis: The computer technology behind the commercials that are used to hypnotize people.
  • No Name Given: The Serial Killer note  apparently has no name and is referred to in the credits simply as "Mustache Man."
  • Perfume Commercial: One for the in-universe perfume called Ravish appeared in the movie.
  • Plot Hole: One major criticism of the movie is that there was no explanation given as to why the models were being killed. The TV version tries to fill this hole with a scene where Reston, after capturing Roberts & Cindy explains that the models were basically blueprints for the company's digital ones, and had them killed so competitors couldn't use them for the same purpose. However, that just raises further questions: Attractive young women are surely a dime a dozen in Los Angeles. Why couldn't the competitors just hire someone else? The models are also unlikely to know much about the valuable commercial secrets of how to scan the models into the computer, and then animate the scans. One possible motive for the murders is that the models who were scanned were promised $200,000 for each year that their likenesses were used. That would add up over time.
  • Reluctant Fanservice Girl: When Cindy is informed she has to be naked to be scanned into the computer, she gets annoyed and calls them perverts, but eventually goes along with it.
  • Serial Killer: Subverted. The one in this film primarily goes after commercial actresses who just had plastic surgery by Larry Roberts and also had their body measurements scanned by Digital Matrix. However, he turns out to be just a lackey acting under the orders of the corrupt executives, who wanted to replace the actresses with digital models.
  • Smoke Out: People sent to kidnap Dr. Roberts' patient Cindy while she is hiding out in his office overnight use a smoke screen to prevent the doctor from using the L.O.O.K.E.R. gun he had stolen from Digital Matrix.
  • Step into the Blinding Fight: The serial killer uses the L.O.O.K.E.R. gun's invisibility effect on people to knock Dr. Roberts around the Digital Matrix laboratory until he gets a special pair of glasses to shield himself from the effect. Dr. Roberts ends up using the L.O.O.K.E.R. gun on the serial killer to give him a Groin Attack before his escape with Cindy.
  • Virtual Celebrity: What Digital Matrix seems to be creating with the commercial actors and actresses they have scanned, with the implied intention that once the original models have been made into virtual actors, they can be easily disposed of. It should be noted that none of the original actors that were used as templates for the models are in themselves celebrities.