True Confession. Role Playing Games once represented a huge part of my social life. Many’s the night we cast our dice to the wind playing Dungeons & Dragons, rolling up characters for some catastrophic quest or other, fortified by cheap beer and weak weed (and vice versa).
On the not-too-rare occasions when nobody really had their shit together enough to have an original adventure prepared, we relied on modules, or ready-made dungeons, that any half-bright game master could purchase at the local Nerd Boutique.
Lantern’s Lane, written and directed by Southern California filmmaker Justin LaReau, is a horror movie module. It’s a bare-bones slasher that hovers around the minimum requirement level in every department.
Nutshell: Homecoming Queen and all-around It Girl, Layla (Brooke Butler), returns to her hick hometown after graduating from college. She drops by the seedy saloon and reconnects with high-school chums Missy (Ashley Doris), a hottie waitress, Shana (Sydney Carvill), a former fat girl, and Jason (Andy Cohen, think Xander from Buffy The Vampire Slayer), the eunuch comic relief.
After a few shots of White Lightning, the onetime classmates drive out to Lantern’s Lane, a local hotspot for Urban Legends and paranormal activity, hoping to get a glimpse of the Old Lady with the Lantern, a tragic spook eternally searching for her dead hubby.
Instead, Layla and her mates end up stranded in an unfinished house, penned in by a knife-wielding psycho wearing a bug-eyed sack.
How basic can you get?
Sadly, most of the running time is devoted to devising escape plans that don’t work, and discussing how Layla is a bad friend for leaving their Podunk town and making a life for herself in the Big City.
By the time the maniac shows up, the characters have rehashed their petty grievances to the point that we’re hoping they get carved up like Christmas hams. No such luck, the body count is dismal and we get only trace amounts of viscera.
On top of all that, LaReau can’t write dialogue to save his life, seldom rising above “Let’s get out of here,” “I can’t do it,” and other throwaway panic phrases that come with the game setup.
The recurring problem with Lantern’s Lane is its lack of any distinctive characteristics. It isn’t scary, funny, bloody, sexy, or even atmospheric.
More like Lantern’s Lame, if you ask me.
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