LANTERN’S LANE, written and directed by Justin LaReau, uses urban legends to set up their horror that becomes more Friday the 13th or Urban Legend than Teke Teke. LANTERN’S LANE is at its best building the discomfort people have when reconnecting with old friends and the way old resentments can fester. LANTERN’S LANE is minor entertainment with a couple of unsurprising twists that viewers will see coming. There is occasional creepiness but no actual scares.
Layla (Brooke Butler) recently graduated college and returns to her small hometown for a visit. She visits the local bar where her high school friend, Missy (Ashley Doris), works. There is a lot of awkwardness between them, mainly on Layla’s end. Her entire attitude exudes someone there under duress. If anything directly happened to change their friendship dynamics, the film does not disclose it. It seems Layla just went away to college, city life and avoided returning home. In her absence, Missy made a new friend Shana (Sydney Carvill), whose family suffered a loss in high school.
Another friend, Jason (Andy Cohen), arrives, and things take a turn. Layla is warmer toward Jason, perhaps because she sees a connection. Jason’s life is no longer in their small town either, although Jason does visit regularly. When her high school friends suggest revisiting Lantern’s Lane, a spot that has a local urban legend, she grudgingly agrees, and they wind up in a fight for survival.
The tension between them stems from several points. Layla makes passive-aggressive comments that take jabs at the lack of responsibilities people like Missy have since they can get drunk regularly. Missy, conversely, acts like they are still in high school and wants to recapture that teenage magic of carefree fun. As the comments and Layla’s dour attitude continue, Missy and Shana’s annoyance seeps through their friendly facade. It is a tricky balance, especially when friends exhibit a high school mentality, but it’s equally annoying when a friend goes out of their way to imply they are now a bona fide grownup.
When they arrive at Lantern’s Lane, we learn about the urban legend that you will see a ghostly old lady with a lantern—murdered while searching for her lost husband—roaming the road. Jason claims he has seen the lantern, but after flickering his car lights, nothing pops out. The situation progressively gets stranger as their car stops working, and they decide to explore the creepy house on Lantern’s Lane for the first time. Because of all the discomfort between them, I was already suspicious of everyone. So, the first twist was just a moment of “I knew it.”
As the horror kicks in and builds, the music notches up dramatically. I did like the music in the film. If the plot were not formulaic, the music and characters would be compelling. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The scares don’t work. The best part of the film is the interaction between the characters. Neither Layla nor Missy’s behavior is right, just varying degrees of wrong. Whether “it was high school” is a valid excuse to absolve people who mistreat and bully during those years will come down to the individual. And that opinion will usually be guided by our own high school experiences.
The acting is good since each person does their part to add to the collective discomfort. Since the plot is predictable, there’s little else to enjoy. Brooke Butler and Ashley Doris’s characters give off frenemy vibes that held my attention. Once the horror started, it went downhill—LANTERN’S LANE glugs along with a predictable, formulaic plot with interesting characters. The relationships between the characters will keep you watching, but if scares are what you are looking for, LANTERN’S LANE will ultimately disappoint.
LANTERN’S LANE is now available in select theaters, Video On Demand and Digital.