Lurking Fear

Adapting an H.P. Lovecraft story into a film is always a tricky business. When I was a kid, I used to scare myself on a regular basis reading his stories, but the main reason the stories were so scary was because there was so much in them that couldn't be explained and that sometimes even the characters couldn't see. The second anyone starts trying to make such a story visible, you've lost the best way there is to frighten the audience. Luckily, Lurking Fear doesn't worry about this kind of problem one bit. Instead it adds in gangsters, a lost fortune, lots of dynamite, and a timid young woman turned into a sort of soldier of fortune, and encourages everyone to chew on the scenery.

There's a little town called Leffert's Corners -- one of the few things the movie has in common with its source material -- that's nearly a ghost town. Sisters Cathryn (Ashley Lauren) and Leigh (Ilinca Goia) are caught there in a storm, and when Leigh doesn't make it out, Cathryn decides to stay to get revenge, rallying the few remaining townies like Jeffrey Combs, playing Dr. Haggis. Hey, I didn't name him. Neither did Lovecraft, actually.

Anyway, apparently there are these creatures living in tunnels beneath the town and said creatures have been slowly eating the townspeople above for a while now. The critters only come out when there's a storm and since no one thinks to get out of there when the sun is shining they end up resorting to guns and explosives.

Enter John Martense (Blake Bailey), just released from prison after five years, though of course it was for something he didn't do. His dad sent him half of a treasure map, giving the other half to a petty crook / funeral director named Knaggs (Vincent Schiavelli) who was one of his best friends. The map leads to Leffert's Corners, naturally, and more specifically to the cemetery, which is the part of town that Cathryn is most anxious to blow up, since that's where the critters seem to congregate.

But a guy named Bennett (Jon Finch) also knows about the money, and since he's some sort of mob boss he's used to getting any money that catches his eye. Along with a couple of henchmen (Pierce, played by Joe Leavengood and Ms. Marlowe, played by Allison Mackie), he heads to Leffert's Corners just in time to ruin Cathryn's plans.

Even knowing that this was from the mid-90's (it's recently been remastered), I have to admit that I cringed a little when I first started watching. I wasn't quite braced enough for all the over the top acting and often doubtful dialogue, though once you get into it it's actually a fun watch. The original plot is so changed around it doesn't make much sense anymore, so you have to not think about that part. And while the effects are pretty good for their time, that doesn't mean a whole lot since, well, mid-90's.

But underneath it all everyone seems to be having fun with it, which is about all you can do when you find yourself in a Lovecraft-based horror movie. I'll give it three out of five. Effects and the occasional unfortunate haircut aside, it's actually stood the test of time reasonably well, and it's worth a watch the next time you want some monsters to go with your popcorn.

Cathryn held at gunpoint.


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