The thing with a film called “Lurking Fear” is you might reasonably expect there to be some lurking fear in it, but this is a film from our friends at Full Moon and the rules are a little different. On the special features at the end of the film, there’s an interview with the writer/director, and he casually dismisses the original HP Lovecraft short story, which he turned into the B plot to an A plot of criminals congregating on a church to find buried loot. Screw you, Lovecraft fans!
The ISCFC has covered a previous version of the exact same short story, 1989’s “Dark Heritage”. That was one of the murkiest, dullest films we’ve seen in many a long day, and this one is both very different and much better. John Martense is a guy just getting out of prison for a crime he didn’t commit, and to get back on his feet he goes to visit Skaggs, an ex-con friend of his Dad’s who has the other half of a treasure map to his Dad’s last “score”. It’s buried in the grounds of an old church, the same church where generations of Martense family members are buried; a few steps behind John are a group of criminals who are probably owed some money, or respect, or something. The cast is rounded off with a group who knows more than us – Cathryn, a young woman attempting to avenge the death of her sister; a pregnant woman from the local village; and Dr Haggis, who I guess is the local doctor.
The cast is pretty strong. Skaggs is played by Vincent Schiavelli, who you’ll recognise from a thousand things (most notably for me, one of the teachers in “Better Off Dead”); Cathryn is Ashley Laurence, who was in the “Hellraiser” films and really ought to have been a bigger star; and Dr Haggis is Jeffrey Combs, who admits in the interview video at the end that he’s played a bafflingly large number of doctors in Lovecraft films. The guy playing John Martense is sort of okay, but is very much like a low-rent Josh Holloway (Sawyer from “Lost”).
The original story is about a family who’ve been isolated for so long that they’ve inbred and devolved into ghouls. This keeps the ghouls, but jettisons most of the rest – that John is the last of the Martense line is pretty much incidental to how things turn out. It feels like a very low rent version of “From Dusk Til Dawn” (which it actually predates by a couple of years) more than it does a Lovecraft story. In fact, it’s so unlike the source material that the only reason to keep the name was to draw in rubes like me and my friends, which is a bit bad of Full Moon I think.
There’s lots of little things which conspire to do this film in. The criminal gang aren’t great, with the female of the group choosing the most weirdly inappropriate times to make her cool quips, and the boss’s London accent slips from time to time. The ghouls are rubbish, not being particularly powerful or scary, more a minor distraction than a worthy foe. People we’re supposed to be cheering on use “faggot” and “queer” casually as insults, which sounds horrible now and must have raised a few eyebrows back then too. Jeffrey Combs, you can tell, did this for a quick buck and you can catch him not giving a damn in the background of a few scenes.
All in all, this is a curious film. There’s a huge amount of potential here, I think, with the cast and source material, and Full Moon at the time making some pretty strong low-budget horror films. I’m going to have to hang this one on the writer / director’s door. This was C Courtney Joyner’s last film as a director, (although he did keep writing, mainly for Full Moon, for years). His cavalier attitude to what is a fairly strong source story is quite amusing, but it would only really be justifiable if he’d made something decent at the end. Sadly, he didn’t.
Rating: thumbs down