Cinema Epoch // 2009 // 96 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // November 5th, 2010
In space, terror knows no bounds.
That statement may well be true, but The Dark Lurking takes place underground. Beats me what they were thinking, but that's just one of many confusing aspects of this slapdash sci-fi/horror entry. It is a conglomeration of imagery co-opted from better films and one of the most poorly written scripts I've seen in a long while.
Outpost 320, located deep under the surface of an unnamed planet, is a scientific bunker that performs mysterious experiments on human subjects. Something has gone drastically wrong, and bizarre monsters have emerged to massacre most of the people inside. The government has locked the place down and the survivors, along with a rescue team sent down to investigate, must maneuver through level after level of mayhem to have a chance at escape.
If the whys and the hows in action/horror aren't important to you, there might be something in The Dark Lurking that appeals to you. The film is all action from start to finish, with a big body count of human and monster alike, and as much gun play as you could possibly want. If you're like me, though, and require at least a little bit of coherence or plausibility, this film pretty hard to enjoy.
Ostensibly, these survivors are supposed to be going up through levels of increasing terror to find safety. It isn't a bad setup, necessarily; it's much like the way a video game works. Unlike a good game, however, there's no sense of progression and no apparent goal to the action. Instead, it's gunfire and yelling, followed by a trip up one level or down another, with no sense of place or movement, and more gunfire and yelling. Through it all, writer/director Greg Connors shows us imagery that anybody with a basic background in horror will be all too familiar with. From the Alien ripoff of the opening sequence to creatures that look alternately like zombies, demons, and Hellraiser's Uncle Frank, every creature and scene appears to have come from someplace else.
This wouldn't ordinarily be that bad; I've seen plenty of ripoffs in my day, and this isn't the worst. The creature effects are almost all practical, which is definitely a plus, and Connors doesn't dwell for too long on any one particular thing. In those rare times, however, without any action, we're subjected to some awful expository writing and even worse performances. More often than not, a character will loudly announce what he or she is about to do, and then go off to do just that. Luckily, none of that lasts too long, as there are more rounds to fire off, but those short moments of glaringly annoying characters and hackneyed lines make The Dark Lurking really hard to watch.
Cinema Epoch's DVD for The Dark Lurking leaves much to be desired technically, but there are a couple of quality extras that make up for some of it. The anamorphic image has a lot of problems. Connors fills the very wide frame with blood and gunshots, but there too little detail and too many problems to appreciate the work. The edge enhancement is distracting and, in this very dark film, the black levels are inconsistent and terribly blocky. The sound is a little better, with a loud surround mix and some spatial effects. It's not a great mix, but it's surely better than the image. For a film with the budget of The Dark Lurking, the extras are better quality than could be expected. An extended making of featurette, running about forty minutes, details every aspect of the production. It's detailed and, though I'm not a big fan of the film, you have to appreciate the spirit those involved had for the project. Netherworld, an early short film from Connors, shows that he has a sense of humor that is not present in the feature. It's a cheap and funny little number about a hellish fight club featuring demons, ogres, and one poor relatively human soul fighting for valor and glory. It certainly doesn't show the filmmaking skill of the feature, but it's a lot more fun. A pointless still gallery and a trailer round the disc out.
The Dark Lurking will appeal to action fans more than horror, and even then, not much. It's violent and gory, but there's not much originality and even less sense. Gunshots only go so far for me; there isn't much I can recommend in this one.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinema Epoch
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Short Film
* Image Gallery