The Lurking Fear (2023) poster

The Lurking Fear (2023)


USA. 2023.


Director/Screenplay – Darren Dalton, Based on the Short Story The Lurking Fear by H.P. Lovecraft, Producer/Photography – Bernard Salzman, Music – Jovanni Ewart, Special Effects – Brad Sheir & Hillary Warren, Production Design – Caleb Mikler. Production Company – VMI Worldwide/Romero Pictures/Bulldog Brothers/Tadross Media Group/Inner Circle Films/Lurking Fear, LLC.


Elizabetta Fantone (Crystal Montgomery), Michael Madsen (Deputy), Robert Davi (Andrew Saville), Jonathan Camp (Mike Campbell), Christopher Mormnado (Sheriff Nassar), Luis Da Silva Jr (Eli Hofstra), Laticia Rolle (Marleene), Anthony Michael Pallino (Tony Creighton), Robert Gillings (David), Ella Waller (Little Girl Lurker), Gianni Capaldi (Officer Quade), Skye Stracke (Molly), J.J. Crowne (Dr Oliver Martense), Jane David (Grace “Old Woman” Lurker)


The reality tv show Inside History conducts an investigation of the abandoned asylum where psychiatrist Oliver Martense is reported to have experimented on and even impregnated patients. The crew ignore warnings about venturing inside. When the show’s host Mike Campbell fails to return, his girlfriend Crystal Montgomery travels to the asylum to see what happened. Joined by several others, she ventures inside the building. There they find that the survivors of Martense’s experiments still lurk in the darkened hallways. They then discover that some of Martense’s descendants are still continuing his experiments.

H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) was an author writing in the 1920s and 30s who created a fascinating body of work that broods with a sense of cosmic horror. His stories centre around scientists uncovering forbidden knowledge, elder gods slumbering and awaiting to be released, ancient prehistoric races emerging and the like. There have been numerous adaptations of Lovecraft on film – see Lovecraftian Films and bottom of the page for a more detailed listing. The 2000s/2010s brought a number of creative offerings from enthusiasts and fans. In the 2020s, these have started to be made on cheaper budgets or where Lovecraft has been used a brand name often plastered above the title of a work that has little or no connection to his works.

This is a film adapted from Lovecraft’s story The Lurking Fear (1923). The original story concerns the discovery of a mansion in the Catskills where the survivors of the 18th century Martense family have become degenerate and in-bred troglodytes living in the catacombs buried in the hills. The story was previously filmed as low-budget Dark Heritage (1989), Full Moon’s Lurking Fear (1994) and is cited as the uncredited basis of Hemoglobin/Bleeders (1997).

This version takes no more than the shell of Lovecraft’s idea – deformed descendants lurking in the tunnels, the name Martense, mention of the survivors suffering from heterochromia – and abandons everything else. In Lovecraft, there is no asylum and no psychiatrist conducting experiments. There is also no reality tv crew (indeed, Lovecraft was writing the better part of three decades before the advent of commercial television), nor any conspiracy among the townspeople. What we have here is not much more than a regular film about an abandoned Asylum filled with lurking in-bred creatures.

The production has clearly obtained the use of some disused facility – even if the location shoot in Jacksonville, Florida seems a whole different world away from Lovecraft’s usual creepy New England towns. This does lead itself quite well to a good deal of lurking around in disused tunnels and hallways and of shadowy malformed figures jumping out of the shadows, which is the essence of the Lovecraft story. The film does not stint when it comes to the gore and splatter element either.

Dr Martense (J.J. Crowne) conducts abominable experiments in The Lurking Fear (2023)
Dr Martense (J.J. Crowne) conducts abominable experiments

The recognisable names present are Robert Davi, who has appeared in everything from the James Bond and Predator films to the Maniac Cop series, and Michael Madsen who has had a history of tough guy roles ever since Reservoir Dogs (1992). The Lurking Fear is unlikely to go down as career best performances for either of them. Madsen in particular gives the impression he is ad libbing all his lines. This becomes embarrassingly awful during the scenes with Elizabetta Fantone tied up in the basement laboratory where Madsen gives the appearance he is wandering in mind and/or come in from a drinking bender the night before and veers incoherently all over the script, while throwing in random asides. And that either director Darren Dalton was too afraid to ask for a retake or else too enamoured of Madsen to cut any of it when it came to the final print.

The Lurking Fear was the first film directed by Darren Dalton. Dalton has been an actor since the 1980s with roles in films like The Outsiders (1983) and Red Dawn (1984), among others. He has also written the scripts for the psycho-thriller Hourglass (1995) and The Asylum films The Day the Earth Stopped (2008) and The Land That Time Forgot (2009).

Other films based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft include:- The Haunted Palace (1963), Die, Monster, Die/Monster of Terror (1965), The Shuttered Room (1967) and The Dunwich Horror (1969). The big success in the modern era was Stuart Gordon’s splattery black comedy version of Re-Animator (1985), which popularised Lovecraft on film. This led to a host of B-budget Lovecraft adaptations, including Stuart Gordon’s subsequent From Beyond (1986), The Curse (1987), The Unnameable (1988), The Resurrected (1992), Necronomicon (1993), The Unnamable II: The Statement of Randolph Carter (1993), Lurking Fear (1994), Stuart Gordon’s Dagon (2001), The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (2003), Beyond the Wall of Sleep (2006), Cool Air (2006), Chill (2007), Cthulhu (2007), The Tomb (2007), Colour from the Dark (2008), The Dunwich Horror (2009), The Color (2010), Pickman’s Muse (2010), The Whisperer in Darkness (2011), The Dark Sleep (2013), The Haunter of the Dark (2015), Herbert West: Re-Animator (2017), Color Out of Space (2019), H.P. Lovecraft’s The Deep Ones (2020), the tv series Lovecraft Country (2020), Markham (2020), H.P. Lovecraft’s Witch House (2021) and Suitable Flesh (2023). Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown (2008) is a documentary about Lovecraft.

Also of interest is The Manitou (1978), which features an appearance of the Great Old One; Cast a Deadly Spell (1991) and its sequel Witch Hunt (1994), a tv movie set in an alternate world where magic works and where the central character is a detective named H.P. Lovecraft; Juan Piquer Simon’s cheap and loosely inspired Cthulhu Mansion (1992); John Carpenter’s Lovecraft homage In the Mouth of Madness (1995); the fan parody The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu (2009) and the parody Call Girl of Cthulhu (2014); even a trilogy of animated children’s film Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom (2016), Howard Lovecraft and the Undersea Kingdom (2017) and Howard Lovecraft and the Kingdom of Madness (2018) in which a young Lovecraft encounters his own creations; while Batman faces Lovecraftian horrors in the animated Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham (2023). The Elder Gods turn up at the end of The Cabin in the Woods (2012), Lovecraft (Paul Titley) appears as an imaginary companion in Ghostland/Incident in a Ghostland (2018) and In Search of Lovecraft (2008) features a tv news crew discovering that Lovecraft’s works are true. Lovecraft’s key work of demonic lore The Necronomicon also makes appearances in films such as Equinox (1970), The Evil Dead II (1987) and Army of Darkness (1992), and was also borrowed as an alternate retitling for Jesus Franco’s surreal and otherwise unrelated Succubus/Necronomicon (1969) about a BDSM dancer.

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