Friday, July 15, 2016

H.P. LOVECRAFT'S LURKING FEAR (1994) (Blu-ray Review)

Label: Full Moon
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: R
Duration: 77 Minutes
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen 
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Digital  2.0 
Director: C. Courtney Joyner
Cast: Jon Finch, Blake Adams, Ashley Laurence, Jeffrey Combs

Synopsis: The town of Leffert's Corners has been plagued by unearthly beings for decades, and now there is only a few people left, including the local priest and a woman traumatized by the death of her sister. But when John Martense turns up to claim his illicit family fortune, with bad guys in pursuit, the last stand had become a lot more complicated.... What everyone is not aware of are the humanoid creatures lurking underneath the holy grounds! Based on the writings of H P Lovecraft.

Full Moon's mid 90s adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's Lurking Fear strays far from the macabre source material, even ham-fisting a crime plot into the proceeding with the introduction of an ex-con named John Martense (Blake Adams) who returns to his childhood home of Lefferts Corner to recover a buried cash of money, which was buried in the local cemetery by his ate father with the help of the local mortician Knaggs, played by the odd-looking character actor Vincent Schiavelli of Better Off Dead. 

Digging up the buried loot proves to be more difficult than originally planned when a trio of violent gangsters arrive in Leffert's Corner also intent on recovering the buried money, which is rightfully theirs. Mobster Bennett (John Finch) shows up along with his seductive femme fatal Ms. Marlowe (Allison Mackie), and henchman Pierce (Joseph Leavengood). They each descend upon the small village at about the same time but none of them realize that Lefert's Corners is infested with cannibalistic creatures that dwell below the ground, and on the day they show up the town's few remaining survivors have planned an all out assault on the grotesque creatures. B-movie icon Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator) shows up as the wry Dr. Haggis, then we have Hellraiser's Ashley Laurence as the ass-kicking Cathryn and the town Priest (Paul Mantee), who seems intent on martyrdom.

The movie begins with a bang-up intro with two sisters in a mansion with a bay, they're besieged by the long-fingered flesh eating creature who have taken up inside the walls of the dilapidated place, when one is snapped in half and dragged through a hole in the wall  to her death, the surviving sister is Cathryn (Laurence) who becomes obsessed with avenging her sibling. It's a good atmospheric set-up, but unfortunately the disjointed movie fails deliver anything near as good after the opening credits. 

A lot of the movies failure in my mind has to do with the large cast, all played by mostly capable actors, aside from a wooden lead from Adams, but they're undefined and their motivations are shallow and rote, they're just rough sketches of characters. Poor Jeffrey Combs is criminally underused, and they're are just too many damn characters to invest in, they're here for canon-fodder and the characters are streched too thin and poorly written. 

The cannibalistic creatures are nicely designed and look creepy onscreen but are glimpsed sparsely, these white-eyed deformities are awesome, I only wish we had more of them onscreen. Watching the movie I could not help but think if the story had just stuck to the original source material a bit more, if they hadn't of crow-barred in the crime plot, and stuck with the small town horror of the source material, that this could have been something special, but this is largely forgettable despite the kernel of a good idea, the inclusion of Jeffrey Combs and some very cool creature effects. 

The same source material was used for the movie Bleeders (1996) which also strays from the source but had a more solid story, defined characters  and creepier atmosphere. Originally Stuart Gordon (From Beyond) was slated to direct this as a period piece for Empire Pictures, I can only imagine what we missed out on there, surely it would have been better than what we ended up with, which is not awful, but a middle of the road '90s horror entry.  

Lurking Fear arrives on Blu-ray from Full Moon framed in 1080p HD widescreen looking crisp and clean, the image has some nice sharpness and clarity with pleasing moments of fine detail. The movies original aspect ratio is 1.33:1 full frame, what we have hear is a re-framed image, and taking that into consideration I think they did a good job, the picture doesn't feel cramped, though I wish they would have included both the original full frame and widescreen versions of the movie for the sake of completeness. Again FM go the lossy audio route with Dolby Digital Surround 5.1 and Stereo 2.0, of which I preferred the stereo option, there are no subtitles. Dialogue, score and effects are rendered clean and crisp, no issues with the audio, but it would have benefited from a DTS-HD MA upgrade. 

Extras on the Blu-ray begin with an audio commentary from director C. Courtney Joyner who offers a detailed commentary about the making of the movie. There's also a vintage Videozone featurette with on-set interviews from Jeffrey Combs, Ashley Laurence, Allison Mackie, and director C. Courtney Joyner with some cool behind-the-scenes video. There's also four minutes of deleted scenes without any sync sound or subtitles,  apparently those elements have been forever lost, plus there's a selection of FM trailers. 

Special Features: 

- Audio Commentary with Director C. Courtney Joyner
- Videozone (Making of Lurking Fear) (7 Mins)
- Deleted Scenes w/o dialogue, just music (4 Mins)
- Theatrical Trailer (3 Mins)
- Teaser Trailer (1 Mins) 

Lurking Fear missed the mark for me despite some interesting elements, strong creature design, and a decent cast. It's a poor Lovecraft adaptation and the story is too heavy on cast and a clumsy script. The mix of crime with the  Lovecratftian doesn't marry well onscreen, however, if you're a Full Moon completist I have to say the new HD image looks quite nice, just wish FM would opt for lossless audio on their Blu-rays releases.