Toplining Jan-Michael Vincent and Karen Black, two of the busiest thesps around, HAUNTING FEAR is one of Fred Olen Ray's better films, which is faint praise indeed.
Ray is the no-budget independent movie mogul whose prodigious output of video-bound cheapies over the past decade has led to inevitable comparisons with legendary B-movie titan Roger Corman. His current production outfit, American Independent Productions, even carries the same initials as the
defunct American International Pictures, which enjoyed a long and fruitful association with Corman. But Corman quickly became good at what he does, whereas Ray still has trouble cranking out a picture with a coherent beginning, middle and end. HAUNTING FEAR, based on an Edgar Allen Poe story,
nearly has all three.
Insomniac heiress Victoria Monroe (Brinke Stevens) fears she'll somehow fall into a cataleptic state and be interred alive. Her moments of sleep produce elaborate nightmares on this theme. Finally Dr. Julia Harcourt (Karen Black), a New Age hypnotherapist, puts Victoria into a trance and finds
she was indeed buried alive a few centuries earlier, in a previous incarnation. This revelation supposedly cures her, but Victoria's conniving husband Terry (Jay Richardson) needs her inheritance to pay his gambling debts. That very night he crates up his slumbering wife so that, when she awakens,
she'll think her nightmares have come true and die of fright. Instead Victoria loses her mind, bursts out of the box and goes on a knife-wielding rampage. Even bullets can't stop her, and the lame open ending has the madwoman vanishing into the night.
No, it's not much like "The Premature Burial," the Poe story on which it's based, but HAUNTING FEAR could have been worse. Fred Olen Ray's stock company of troupers get what they can out of the sluggish screenplay, with Jan-Michael Vincent effective but underutilized as Lt. James Trent, a shady
cop with a crush on the ill-fated heroine. Hollywood scream queen Brinke Stevens (THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE, SLAVE GIRLS FROM BEYOND INFINITY) does adequately in the lead, although the EXORCIST-style makeup she wears at the end looks phony, as do most of the gore effects. Also graphic are
sadomasochistic sex scenes between Terry and his bitchy mistress Lisa (Delia Sheppard), which approach hardcore porn.
HAUNTING FEAR came to home video on the Rhino label, a company specializing in novelty and camp. But there's little humor, intentional or otherwise--a rarity with Fred Olen Ray endeavors. (Violence, substance abuse, profanity, sexual situations, adult situations, nudity.)
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- Released: 1991
- Rating: NR
- Review: Toplining Jan-Michael Vincent and Karen Black, two of the busiest thesps around, HAUNTING FEAR is one of Fred Olen Ray's better films, which is faint praise indeed. Ray is the no-budget independent movie mogul whose prodigious output of video-bound cheap… (more)
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