Dark Heritage (1989)
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The first thing I noticed about this no-frills DVD is that the title of the film is presented as "Drak Heritage" on the menu. This didn't exactly fill me with confidence as people who give a damn about their release would never let such an obvious and glaring error slip past them. The sound quality fluctuates horribly during the film and some of the soundtrack overwhelms the system and obviously went far beyond the redline during mixing. The film quality is iffy, at best, and lighting seems to be a problem in numerous scenes. Of course, we've all scene bad, low-budget Lovecraft films before.
The next problem with the film is the cast. Cardboard like at best, just plain awful at their worst, the cast seems wholly unbelievable. The flat delivery of dialog casts one more horrible shadow on this film.
Still, there are some bright points. First, the locations. The plantation home used for the Dansen manor was wonderful. It evoked an almost "Blair Witch" feel, the cracked plaster, and vacant halls. Of course, someplace that has been abandoned for 150 years shouldn't have light switches by the door, and a fairly well manicured lawn, but I was actually willing to overlook that.
Secondly, bad as this film is (and make no mistake, it is pretty awful), Dark Heritage does manage to create a bit of atmospheric tension during a few of the more eerie moments of the movie. In fact, had this been done as a silent film, it would have most likely enhanced the overall production by not allowing bad acting to spoil the few solid atmospheric shots.
Still, this adaptation is weak, leaving a few unanswered questions, but perhaps they are best left unanswered. Interestingly enough though, the only actor from this movie who has gone on to continue his career to any note, Eddie Moore (Mr. Daniels), went on to play bit parts in two Brendan Fraser movies ("Blast from the Past" and "Dudley Do-Right"). Nice to see that he managed to overcome that little problem of being incapable of acting his way out of a wet paper sack.
Overall the film comes off like someone's college project and, viewed in that light, it isn't too terribly bad. Of the three Lurking Fear adaptations available (Bleeders/Hemoglobin, the Lurking Fear, and Dark Heritage) this is by far the most faithful adaptation. Certainly, the setting has been moved to Louisiana and the name Martense has been changed to Dansen, but much of the film is actually quite faithful to the original story. This alone makes it an interesting find
After thirty odd people are found mutilated in a campground an investigative reporter goes to the deserted mansion of the Dansen clan with two other people because it maybe connected to the killings. Legend says the house has been empty for years and that weird things go on in and around the house. When in the middle of the night strange noises are heard and the two others go missing the reporter has some tough explaining to do. Put on leave he continues to investigate and begins to uncover the real story behind the killings.
Never having heard of this film I picked it up at the local dollar store for a buck. I had no hopes for the film since most of the stuff I get is beyond awful. When the film actually started I was struck by how the film seemed to be from the late 1970's or early 1980's, it had the unmistakable feel of a low budget drive in movie, even though it was made ten years after the final glory days of the drive-ins.
The tale is clichéd Lovecraft with some one investigating a "horror" of some sort only to find something even more terrifying. While not uniformly scary, there are moments that are rather tense and creepy. I liked that the filmmakers didn't feel the need to show us the monsters until the end, and didn't over play their hands with shots of their faces. And while its not perfect I like that the film tries, and mostly succeeds to set a mood.
Is it perfect? Oh please no. The monsters aren't really scary once we get a good look at them, the twist ending isn't surprising, the film makes the classic Lovecraft adaption mistake of being about 20 minutes too long, and there are a couple of "what the...?" moments, however for the most part it overcomes its limitations and is a very good little thriller.
Recommended for those who miss the low budget drive in films of the 1970's
The main house in it, I thought to myself, resembled the house Fletch inherited in Fletch Lives (1989). In fact, it is!: the Ashland-Belle Helene Plantation, Geismer, Louisiana, USA. I think it's unlikely they were both shooting there the same year. Dark Heritage seems like it could be several years older than its copyright date.
A reporter is sent to do a story on some campers that have been killed (we only see that two are attacked, but evidently more were). The newspaper's owner has the manager offer the reporter to stay in a nearby house about which he is also curious. The manager thinks it's a really bad idea, but the reporter agrees and has two other guys willing to join him.
Something happens during the night, and the two other guys are killed; the reporter flees. No evidence is found afterward, but a videotape they'd made shows up in the reporter's car mysteriously. He researches the house and the area in a library, where he meets two parapsychologists who are also interested in the house.
The new team of three goes back, and they discover strange holes in the ground around the house...
I don't think there will be any big surprises for anyone who has read Lovecraft's story, or the two other movie adaptations of it (Lurking Fear, and Bleeders AKA Hemoglobin). However, it is a good amateur effort.
IF this were a college film project, IF this were filmed over a very short time by a group of friends just having fun, IF this were solely a video release on social media with no intent to part Lovecraft fans with their money, and IF these were truly amateurs struggling to pay homage to one of the prolific writers of American history; then I would probably be more forgiving.
But that's just not the case.
This movie is attached to not one, but two professional production agencies. They created and distributed this movie with the intention of marketing and selling a product. The product is bad, it's beyond bad, and I don't understand why most of the reviewers of this title are sheepishly tiptoeing around that fact.
Anyone can steal a story from Lovecraft and "try" to make an movie out of it. It does not mean the movie makers understand, respect, or even like Lovecraft's writing. It does not mean that they are putting one iota of effort into translating his stories onto the big screen for our enjoyment. Sometimes, it just means that they want to make some $$$ from desperate people that are itching to see their favorite author acknowledged.
So yes, the movie does actually follow "The Lurking Fear." But what's the point, if the end result is so ridiculous, you had to use the DVD cover as toilet paper to offset the costs of buying such an incredibly stupid movie?
I would love to put this in my personal list of recommendations, on the basis that it wasn't crude, insulting, or over-the-top in gore. But I can't because it's so farcical and boring to sit through, and I refuse to encourage another human being to punish themselves by watching it.
The film has some truly woeful acting, at times it is so badly lit that you cannot quite see what is going on, the script has some appallingly bad lines in it, at times the music is so jarringly loud that it becomes intrusive and the creatures are not exactly terrifying. But still there is something that elevates it above some of the other schlocky Lovecraft adaptations that I have seen - in particular the two other adaptations of "The Lurking Fear" I have seen.
Dark Heritage is easily the most faithful of the three film versions I have seen (Haemoglobin & The Lurking Fear being the other two). Yes, the action is transferred to the modern day. Yes, the location is moved from the Catskills to Louisiana. Yes, the degenerate family are the Dansen clan instead of the Martense family. Yes, there have been some alterations made due to filming constraints such as the hero ducking into a caravan to escape the coming storm rather than a wooden shack and Yes, the makers of the film have tacked a rather poor 'twist-in-the-tale' ending on the end - but other than that it is a pretty good adaptation.
The central character takes two companions with him to investigate (in this case a massacre at a campsite), they camp overnight inside the abandoned mansion house and fall asleep as a storm approaches. When the hero wakes his companions have vanished. He finds someone else who is investigating the family / house (in this case two parapsychologists). They research the history of the family but when they revisit the area are forced to take shelter from another approaching storm. Someone looks out the door during the storm and gets their face ripped off (easily the best S/FX in the film). They dig open the grave of a prominent member of the family only to find a network of tunnels. Encounter a strange creature in the tunnel but are saved by a stroke of good luck. Later, the central character finds the entrance to the creatures burrows in the basement of the mansion house, they hide and then see scores of the things emerge from the burrows into the house and the hero finally makes the connection between these creatures and the old, decadent family.
All of that is straight out of Lovecraft. Director David McCormick (who appears in the film as one of the creatures) uses his limited resources to good effect at times - the dream sequence and the first encounter with the creature in the tunnel being good examples. Composer Jesse Carnes (who also appears in the movie - as the TV news reporter at the campsite)has come up with a wonderfully atmospheric piece of Gothic organ music. The central character, journalist Clint Harrison, is played by Mark LaCour with a strange haunted air to him and the dim lighting is at least useful when the creatures appear. However, perhaps the star of the film is the impressive, 1841 built, Ashland-Belle Helene Plantation Mansion that provides a superb backdrop to the film. This historic house has been used in a number of other films such as "Fletch Lives" and it is clear to see why. It has just the right blend of decadence and decay to make you think it really could have been the home of the Dansen clan.
So, overall a very low-budget and slightly amateurish film that is perhaps more interesting and at times much better than you might think it is going to be. Not a great film by any means but not an absolute pile of you know what either.
A journalist with bad hair gets sent to research a story with a guy about as wooden as the back yard of B&Q. There's a house in Louisiana where there's a doings a transpirin' and it's up to the journalist and his two buddies to find out what's going' down. His buddies disappear, so the journalist does what people never do in horror films: he actually runs away! That was refreshing for starters.
Although he does go back with two other guys. Despite the legion of handicaps this film has, it still manages to keep going at a good pace, and by the time the creatures appear I was forgiving the film for it's faults. Don't go in expecting a classic, or even a normal film, and you should have a good time.
Firstly, how many times in the film did the characters use the phrase "You're Right."? I'm sure i was counting in the hundreds before I gave up and started watching the film again.
Secondly, what the hell is with those blue monkey things? OK, so the Dansen family led very private lives and had one brown eye one blue eye, but since when does that transform people into subterranean carnivorous blue zombie-creatures?
and finally, 'Old faithful here will protect me' hahaha :)