The Lurking Fear (2023) Movie Review – Horror on Tubi
When a TV crew shoots a reality show at an abandoned mental institution, they encounter a horde of demons, leading to a bloody fight for survival.
Welcome to Knockout Horror. Today we are going to be reviewing The Lurking Fear from 2023. I mean, what could go wrong? Just look at the breakdown of this movie. Michael Madsen stars.. Awesome! Big fan of his for years. Robert Davi also features. Still doing his thing in 2023. Can you believe The Goonies released nearly 40 years ago? Experienced cast; one of the directors starred in Francis Ford Coppola’s amazing gang drama The Outsiders from 1983. This is all legitimately promising…. Wait! It’s a Tubi Original? Here we go again!
If you came here looking for an ending explained article. Because, let’s be real, this movie needs one. You have come to the right place. Click right here to check out our The Lurking Fear Ending Explained article. Be warned, it is a bit of an epic with a lot of text and, obviously, spoilers. If you haven’t watched the movie yet, stick with this spoiler free review.
Not Again Tubi
We have, sort of, made Tubi our home for the past couple of months. What started as a month of low budget horror reviews from the free streaming service. Quickly turned into an extended period of long form Tubi torture. #Float, #No_Filter, The Amityville Curse, Shark Huntress. It’s been terrible movie after terrible movie. I actually thought I was just getting unlucky with the choices I was making. I think the reality, however, is a little more troubling. Especially when it comes to Tubi Originals.
I actually think that Tubi are incapable of commissioning a decent Tubi Original horror movie. I mean, this amount of bad movies can’t be a coincidence, can it? We have reviewed ten of these movies in the past couple of months. Only one of them is genuinely decent and only one more is kinda okay. The rest are utter garbage. What’s the deal Tubi? Are you doing this deliberately? Do you just not care what your name is associated with? Is this actually some form of punishment for people daring to support free streaming sites? I don’t get it.
The synopsis for The Lurking Fear describes it as: “When a TV crew shoots a reality show at an abandoned mental institution, they encounter a horde of demons, leading to a bloody fight for survival.”. But that’s not, strictly speaking, what happens. It could, probably, more accurately be described as a group of filmmakers going missing in an abandoned asylum. Forcing the wife of one of the crew to investigate the location. Things go bump in the dark, some spooky shit happens and the viewer tries to hold back awful movie induced vomit for 80 minutes.
The synopsis gives it something of a Grave Encounters feel which just wouldn’t be accurate. For one, Grave Encounters was actually decent. And for two Grave Encounters had some genuinely creepy moments. What The Lurking Fear has is some terrible script writing, some of the worst direction I have seen in years, and Editing that makes fledgling YouTubers look like seasoned pros. I actually can’t believe that this movie is made by people who have been in the business for years.
Lovecraftian But Not Really
You may recognise the title The Lurking Fear from H.P Lovecraft’s 1922 short story of the same name. A tale of a hunter investigating the legend of the Martense family. Only to find horrific secrets that lead to him destroying the Martense mansion and the surrounding hillsides. The film in question here is, rather loosely, based on the story. Enough to the point where if you know of the story you can probably figure out what is going on. But not enough to the point of it feeling like a retelling of the tale.
Being a Lovecraft fan would not particularly warrant a watch of this movie as you will likely be completely disappointed. There just aren’t that many traditional Lovecraft tropes here. Part of that is due to the source material. Outside of being an examination of taboo and the horror that lies beneath what we recognise as normal society. The Lurking Fear was one of his more traditional horror tales. An even bigger part of that, however, is due to execution. This is just a really bad movie.
A Fairly Interesting Premise Quickly Ruined
The somewhat interesting, though wildly overdone, premise of a crazed scientist exploiting vulnerable people for his own gain. Offers up a glimmer of hope but the problems start right away. A bloated cast is introduced to the viewer at breakneck speed. Leaving no small degree of confusion regarding who is who. All while we are exposed to an elaborate explanation of the asylum’s history complete with vague flashbacks.
We have television show producers, an expert on the asylum, the host of the show, numerous cops, the host’s wife, a few more cops, the show’s director, a blonde woman wearing the most see through top this side of the lingerie aisle, a dog.. We are twenty minutes in and it’s already incredibly difficult to keep track of who is who and what is going on.
It Keeps on Getting Worse
Things only get worse as scenes continue to skip around with no rhyme or reason. One minute we are in the asylum. The next minute we are in some woman’s house. The next we are by a trailer only to be back in the asylum again a few minutes later. It is painfully clumsy and the continuity feels a complete mess. Scenes roll by in an almost nonsensical manner, feeling haphazardly placed and almost random in their ordering.
We literally go from the crew talking in the asylum, to a scene of a crew member dropping to the floor. Only to learn that the crew is now missing because the host didn’t call his wife for a couple of hours. Prompting her to make the 14 hour trip from New York to Jacksonville to go looking for him. It feels really mess and extremely silly and this is a theme of the entire movie.
So Poorly Edited and Directed
There is absolutely no flow at all to this film. Rarely will you see such a messy narrative in horror. Nearly every scene switch is jarring. Continually forcing you to try and work out where you are in the story. The aforementioned 14 hour drive is a ten second sequence showing Crystal checking a map, driving for a second or two, and then the New York skyline. The next scene is Crystal walking in the park because she somehow knows the exact place the local Sheriff is hanging out. The next minute she is at the asylum. It jumps around continually.
Things only get worse from here as the scenes inside the asylum become really jumbled. It’s a mix of flashbacks, recordings on cameras, scenes of Crystal walking around, scenes of another group of people trying to find Crystal and things apparently moving in the dark. It is messy and very difficult to follow.
The only explanation for this is a terrible edit, poor writing and some seriously lacklustre direction. I can only imagine that Dalton and Gillings didn’t have a concrete timeline for how to put the events together. So filmed a whole bunch of scenes, a ton of excess stuff to fill in the gaps, and then slapped it on the desk of an inexperienced editor. Whatever the reason, it makes The Lurking Fear a very tough watch. Both hard to follow and, at times, rather confusing.
No Scares At All
Although the large, dark, dreary asylum makes for a pretty intimidating location. It never feels particularly dangerous. it never feels like characters are at a serious risk of getting lost and the external shots show plenty of green space. Graffiti adorns the walls lending a feeling of “well if kids can graffiti in here I am sure our massive film crew is just fine”. The predictable nature of the story doesn’t help. You will see every single plot twist coming and you will probably work out exactly what is going on almost instantly.
Terrible makeup work lends the movie a hint of the hokey. Attempts to revolt the viewer actually end up provoking laughs. In what becomes an almost child like interpretation of torture porn. It’s seriously comical stuff in parts. Despite the writer’s attempts to channel some visceral reaction of shock from the person watching. It just feels cheesy and rather silly. Especially in later scenes where the reality of the asylum is more clear.
Our characters are picked off one by one in classic generic horror fashion. While one character is dragged in and out of the asylum on numerous occasions in what can only be described as a sort of merry-go-round of false endings. It’s like the writer wanted a few shots at actually putting together a cohesive ending. Instead vomiting up a final 30 minutes that make about as much sense as your average fever dream.
Why Michael Madsen, Why?
You will be seeing a lot of the names here in cheap horror movies on Tubi. This is where actors, apparently, go to die. Michael Madsen’s film credits number over 300 and it seriously pains me to think he has to commit himself to crap like this. Does he have a gambling problem? The worst part is, he is dragging himself down with these types of films.
There are parts in The Lurking Fear where it seems as though he hasn’t even bothered to learn the script. I have never seen a movie where an older character says “You know” multiple times in one scene like he is a 14 year old girl talking about why she loves K-Pop. It’s really bad but that really isn’t on Madsen. He is one of the only highlights here. I can’t blame him for not putting in 100%. Get in, cash a cheque and get out. Madsen and Davi both chew the hell out of the scenery. They just seem like two veteran actors being given permission to go nuts and do what they want. It’s comical, a bit ridiculous, but funny to watch nonetheless.
Everyone else ranges from average to awful. Elisabetta Fantone seems to lose her accent on a number of occasions and looks completely bored for the most part. Jonathan Camp is almost impossible to understand in the one scene where he expresses some emotion. Robert Gillings was not content with simply ruining the film by writing the script and directing. He also decided to play a pointless character that’s on screen for less than a minute. And the vast majority of the cast seemed to genuinely struggle to deliver their lines as if the script was written in wingdings or something.
Final Thoughts and Score
The Lurking Fear is yet another dog turd left on our porches by Tubi. Featuring one of the most messy narratives I have seen in horror recently. This movie is a jumbled mess highlighted by a story that jumps around wildly, poor acting, no scares, a dull plot and another laborious 80 minutes spent in a dreary asylum.
Desperately attempting to use a Lovecraft story to gain a little extra credibility. As well as some veteran actors to prop up it’s cast of has-beens and never-will-bes. The result is a movie that’s only redeeming quality is the performances of Michael Madsen and Robert Davi who obviously don’t give a shit and are having a good time. Impossible to recommend. This falls at the bottom of the pile along with crap like #Float for the worst Tubi horror movies around.