REVIEW: LURKING FEAR / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: C. COURTNEY JOYNER / SCREENPLAY: C. COURTNEY JOYNER / STARRING: ASHLEY LAURENCE, JEFFREY COMBS, JON FINCH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Preceding From Dusk Till Dawn by two years, Lurking Fear (1994) performs a similar trick of starting out as a crime drama, then taking a sharp segue into the supernatural – only it does it on a budget and, you won't be surprised to hear, not nearly as well. For starters, it tips its hand with a prologue featuring a scary taloned claw trusting out of an air vent, so that's the big surprise ruined. Nor does it have Tarantino's dialogue, George Clooney's starry allure or Rodriguez's Tex-Mex-inflected visual flair (it tries, but it was shot on a shoe-string in Bucharest). What it does have, though, is a pretty neat idea with some imaginative touches, plus Jeffrey Combs and that chick from the Hellraiser films.
The story concerns an ex-con looking to collect some buried dosh left to him as a sort of legacy by his father, and in turn being pursued by a cockney mobster (Jon Finch sporting a dangly earring) and his goons. He gets to the hiding place, an old cemetery, only to find that a small group of diehards are encamped there attempting to ward off a mysterious subterranean threat... well, it's not that mysterious really, they're sitting on a nest of goggle-eyed, tunnel-dwelling goons who want to drain their blood to feed their babies!
Give this to someone like John Carpenter, and you'd have the basis for an enjoyably shlocky B-movie. Unfortunately, it's in the hands of one C. Courtney Joyner, a screenwriter for most of his career, and it's a shame he didn't pass it on to a more experienced helmsman, because he fails to make the most of some promising material and well-written characters parts. He has no luck getting decent performances from the less experienced cast members, and the action sequences and scare gags have a lumpy, under-rehearsed quality. In the event, the whole thing trundles along slightly awkwardly before being hastily wrapped up after an hour and a bit.
Still, the creature makeup is decent, as is Ashley Laurence, who – looking very buff and gym-toned – dons a singlet and combat trousers to play a Sarah Connor-type action heroine who's good with guns and dynamite. Jeffrey Combs also puts in a lively turn as a drunken doctor tending wounds between sips from a pocket flask the size of a 1980s mobile phone. And it's nice to catch a rare sighting of Jon Finch, a '70s actor who seemed to vanish later in his career almost as if he actually had been dragged into a hole. You might find the poor production values and leaden direction totally off-putting, but if you can get over that Lurking Fear has more than a few lurking merits.
Extras: The Making of Lurking Fear / Trailers