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Monday, 12 October 2015

Another Attempt At Retelling Lovecraft's The Lurking Fear...


Dark Heritage is the third cinematic attempt to bring HP Lovecraft's 1923 short story, The Lurking Fear, to life on the silver screen and is, by far, the worst.

However, in the process of creating this low-budget, travesty of storytelling, director David McCormick (who I suspect also wrote the piece, although no one is actually credited) has come up with a poster boy for the "so bad, it's good" school of film-making.

You could pen a doctoral thesis on everything that is wrong with Dark Heritage, or at least, a tear-inducing RiffTrax or Mystery Science Theater 3000 commentary.

Bizarrely, the DVD case packaging for 1989's Dark Heritage describes the film as an "uncredited adaptation of HP Lovecraft's The Lurking Fear"... but surely that's an acknowledgement of the source of the story, so how could it be described as uncredited? My brain hurts already!

After a camp ground massacre, journalist Clint Harrison (Mark LaCour) is dispatched to investigate a local legend about a nearby abandoned mansion.

His first assignment is to stay in the mansion overnight (!!!), along with a couple of blokes from the paper's print room (!!!).

During the night, the printers get kidnapped by unseen creatures, so, naturally, Clint gets some enforced vacation time.

However, he continues to investigate the old house - because he is "the best investigative reporter this paper has" - and meets up with a couple of college graduates, Jack (Tim Verkaik) and Greg (David Hatcher), who are also nosing around the area.

They tell Clint all about the Dansen family, who came over from Norway in 1790, and built the mansion.

Turns out there were rumours of incestuous goings-on and eventually the family vanished in the nineteenth century, and no one knows what happened to them.

As well as ghost stories, Clint learns that there have been a number of murders around the area in the last 100 years, but somehow this information has been kept from the authorities.

Unsurprisingly, the gents' digging into the Dansen (or ' Dancing' as it's spelt in the scene selection menu on the DVD) family and their property doesn't end well.

Universally dreadful acting, piss-poor direction, and rambling, nonsensical dialogue prop up Dark Heritage's preposterous plotting.

Honestly, this is a truly godawful film, where almost every production decision screams 'amateur hour'; its attempts at humour are jaw-droppingly misjudged; and its shoe-horning of exposition is hilariously repetitive.

In fact, I strongly suspect that it was not only filmed in sequence but also, possibly, made up as the crew went along as eventually the dialogue becomes almost knowing and self-referential, mocking its own idiocy.

Clearly written by someone who has a very peculiar idea of what constitutes journalism, it's also quite possible that the script was the work of students who firmly believed they had an ear for natural dialogue, when nothing could have been further from the truth (convincing filmic dialogue needs editing).

This might also (but I doubt it) go some way towards explaining the blasé attitude everyone, particularly Clint, has towards the various deaths that happen right in front of them.

Not everything about Dark Heritage is bad though, but the good moments are fleeting. Around the movie's mid-point there's a short, silent, sepia-tinted, nightmare sequence that evokes both Carnival Of Souls and The Evil Dead quite successfully.

There's also an effective, but again all too brief, claustrophobic tunnel sequence when "our heroes" head underground.

And, although when we finally meet the Dansen mutants they are obviously just skinny people in Halloween monster masks, as poorly-lit creatures of the night, they're still quite creepy. But again, their appearance is little more than a cameo.

Everything comes to a head with a convoluted plot twist that - as with much else in this movie - makes no logical sense, as it undermines the motivation for sending Clint off on his wild goose chase in the first place (why send someone to investigate something that could incriminate you, when you could have left well enough alone and no one would have been any the wiser?).

And the sad thing is there was a far better potential twist had they thought to have brought in the mysterious, unseen publisher of Clint's newspaper, and possibly stuck closer to Lovecraft's source material, rather than going the stupid route they took instead.

One key element retained from Lovecraft is the peculiar eye trait of the central family, but the film is so poorly lit that no matter how frequently this is brought up you really can't make it out that much.

For most of the actors in this abomination, except for Eddie Moore (who plays Clint's editor, Mr Daniels), Dark Heritage is their only acting credit on IMDB, and that should tell you a lot.

This is really a film that only hardcore fans of trashy cinema - who embrace awfulness, and don't always take their horror movies too seriously - can enjoy.

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