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The Lurking Fear (2023) Review

Despite being titled The Lurking Fear, this has almost nothing to do with H.P. Lovecraft or any of his stories. The one connection is a character named Martense whose eyes are of two different colours. Instead, it’s the story of what happens to the crew of Inside History when they come to film an episode at the now-abandoned institution once run by Dr. Oliver Martense (J.J. Crowne, Killing Byron Bravo, Dream Killer) whose methods of treatment were more like torture. And that wasn’t the worst of his sins.

Despite Officer Hansen’s (Michael Madsen, Waking Karma, Shark Season) attempts to stop them the crew, Mike (Jonathan Camp, Mojave Diamonds, The Weapon), Marleene (Laticia Rolle, Someday Isles, Shaft), and Molly (Skye Stracke, Nova, Zoolander 2) along with Andrew Seville (Robert Davi, Action Jackson, Peacemaker) a local expert on the doctor go in to do some filming.

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Co-written by Darren Dalton (The Land That Time Forgot, The Day the Earth Stopped) and Robert Gillings (American Fright Fest, Paper Empire) with Dalton directing, The Lurking Fear is a mess almost from the start. It starts out with the overused trope of a film crew finding a much more sensational story than they expected and populates it with interchangeable victims.

That includes Sheriff Nassar (Christopher Mormando, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, For Life), Mike’s fiancé Crystal (Elisabetta Fantone, MobKing, Havana 57), and a couple of others who get drawn into the asylum in a last-minute attempt to pad the potential body count. It then has them wander around some old tunnels while the inbred descendants of Dr.Martense and the various patients he assaulted pick them off one by one before The Lurking Fear heads into Saw territory in the film’s final minutes.

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With a large pool of potential victims and a reasonably decent filming location for cinematographer Bernard Salzmann (Riding the Edge, Divorce: A Contemporary Western) to prowl around in, The Lurking Fear should at least have been watchable. It also has, for a Tubi Original, a surprising amount of practical gore. The effects aren’t exactly great, but they’re not terrible either, and it’s a welcome change from lower-budget films with nothing but a bit of blood being splashed around.

What is missing is a competent script. At twenty minutes in, the film reveals one of the characters’ true intentions. I would have been surprised that they gave it away so early if it hadn’t been obvious from the moment you meet the character. A similar attempt at a twist at the other end of the film falls equally flat. As does just about everything in between for that matter.

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Even the cast seem to have realized what a mess this was going to be and seem to be going through the motions for most of it. Madsen frequently sounds like he either forgot his lines or was trying to improvise his dialogue and failing badly, repeatedly interjecting “You know” into scenes. Davi at least overacts somewhat amusingly at times, chewing the scenery like the film’s cannibals chew their victims.

With lacklustre attack scenes, nearly anonymous characters delivering terrible dialogue and a badly overused plot idea that ignores all the best parts of the story whose title it rips off, there’s really no reason to watch it even for free. Long on lurking but very short on fear, The Lurking Fear is another disastrous Tubi Original.

The Lurking Fear is currently available on Tubi, wherever the streaming service is available.

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