Someone needs to put every edition of Full Moon's "Videozone" on a single DVD. How orgasmic would that be? Charles Band catches a lot of flack (granted, some of it is warranted), but the guy is responsible for hundreds of b-movies. When his pet project was backed by Paramount, a steep percentage of these b-movies were afforded spiffy budgets. 1994's Lurking Fear resides on the cheaper end of this headmost wave of Full Moon titles, but compared to later blunders like Ragdoll and Killjoy, it's a lavish Hollywood masterstroke. Based on a short story written by H.P. Lovecraft, this flick was originally going to be directed by Stuart Gordon. It didn't pan out, although Gordon took another crack at Lovecraft the following year (if you haven't seen Castle Freak, you're missing out).
As it turns out, there are three film adaptations of this disturbing tale. You've got 1989's Dark Heritage, 1997's Bleeders and of course, you've got Lurking Fear. I haven't seen Dark Heritage, but I'm one of the gullible saps who rented Bleeders back in the day because of its cover art. Horror fans are suckers. I won't spend much time comparing the two. I will say that I would have been lost during the bulk of Lurking Fear if I had never taken a chance on Bleeders. The latter is torpid, long-winded gruntwork, but at least it explained why albino mutants were killing innocent people and dragging them through underground tunnels. The former assumes that you have read the source material. HINT: I haven't read the source material.
Still, there are subplots that were easier to swallow. A rugged twentysomething is released from prison and learns that a lump sum of money is buried in his father's corpse. He retrieves the map, but retrieving the cash proves to be a galumphing chore. When he arrives at the cemetery with shovel in hand, he is greeted by casino thugs and monster hunters. Let's talk about the monster hunters. They are easily the best thing about Lurking Fear. Jeffrey Combs plays a drunken smartass, while Ashley Laurence (yes, that Ashley Laurence) plays a short-tempered badass. Incidentally, they are the only available actors qualified to recite dialogue in front of a camera. I'm not just roasting amateurs out of holier-than-thou vainglory. Everyone else is ordinary at best.
Writer/director C. Courtney Joyner gets the horror elements right. The atmosphere is moody (thunder, lighting, the whole nine yards), the creature effects are competent and the gore is moist. Sadly, the subterranean goblins aren't quite as threatening as they should be. We don't see them enough, and at one point, the lead ghoul has a conversation with a priest. Ghouls shouldn't have conversations, much less with men of the cloth. I have no choice but to endow Lurking Fear with the dreaded wishy-washy rating. I like to call it The Meh. Is Bleeders better, you ask? I can't say for sure, as it's also Meh-worthy. As for the subject of today's review, I've seen worse Full Moon films (much, much worse). It's suitable viewing for a rainy night.
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 10:21 PM