An Average Movie-Goer’s Review
Spoilers! If you don’t want spoilers – check out the Spoiler-Free post
I love horror movies and if I’m going to watch them anyway, why not write an entertaining/funny review from the POV of an average movie-goer and not a professional critic.
Today we’re looking at 2021’s Lantern’s Lane
After Layla (Brooke Butler) visits a group of her friends in a small town they end up on a supposedly haunted road and are stalked by a killer.
Is it Scary?
Nope, and Lantern’s Lane makes sure that you’re not scared by playing carnival music at random times that throws off the scenes. In the end, you won’t be scared unless… actually nah you won’t be scared no matter what.
We start the movie with a text warning that “Urban legends are everywhere” and then we’re dramatically hit with “but some are real.”
We open with our main character Layla (played by Brooke Butler) driving through a small town and arriving at a bar called Suds. Inside she meets with her friend Missy (played by Ashley Doris) who works at Suds to Layla’s surprise. It’s quickly implied that Layla grew up in the town but moved to the city years ago for school and work and hasn’t been back since.
Missy directs Layla to another friend Braxton (played by Robbie Allen) while she finishes working. At the table with Braxton it’s pretty awkward between the two old friends but, we learn, Layla is in town to pick up some stuff from her parent’s house before they sell it.
After Braxton leaves, Missy returns to the table and it’s like she read the spark notes for the movie because we get so much unnatural-sounding blatant exposition.
Here’s the list:
- Missy has been working at Suds for two years, something Layla didn’t know
- Layla and Missy have known each other since the 9th grade
- Missy asked Layla to meet her at Suds. This implies they’ve kept in touch despite it being implied they haven’t spoken in years
- Layla spots an old classmate, Shana, who used to be ‘chunky’ (played by Sydney Carvill) and her mother Janet (played by Lisa Roumain) sitting at the bar
- Shana lost 30 pounds after her sister Hayley, who was also ‘chunky’, killed herself in high school
- Layla and Missy used to bully Hayley including one time ditching her at Lantern’s Lane
- Missy and Shana are now good friends
- Layla was Homecoming queen
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with exposition dumps and in fact, most movies need at least one, this one feels unnecessary at this point. Everything that was said could have happened organically throughout the movie, instead, this is all told to us in 90 seconds.
Missy invites Shana and Janet to the table but Janet declines as she just got off a 12-hour shift. Shana is clearly uncomfortable towards Layla or maybe… a bit suspicious like she’s hiding something? Missy heads back to the bar for more drinks while another friend, Jason (played by Andy Cohen) arrives.
The group have drinks courtesy of one of their old high school teachers, Mr. Hanson (played by Justin LaReau) who declines to join them and leaves. Justin LaReau is also the director and writer, so we at least know who to blame for this.
Missy suggests the group go drink at Lantern’s Lane just like old times. Layla refuses since it’s 15 miles out in the middle of nowhere and they’re old enough to not need to hide their drinking. Everyone tries to convince Layla with Missy saying she visited Layla a few times so now she owes her. Every five minutes I’m confused as to how long they haven’t spoken or seen each other.
Layla concedes and the four head out to Lantern’s Lane in Jason’s truck while Missy sends Braxton a text invite. Missy then loads up the trunk with beers that I can only assume she stole from her workplace and they pull off. A few seconds later a hidden truck turns on and follows after them. DUN DUN DUNN
The group arrive at Lantern’s Lane and pull up to a ‘never-ending’ mailbox, according to the local legend. Shana claims she reached in once and was never able to reach the back. Layla and Jason call her bluff and Jason reaches into the mailbox. There’s a jump scare as the music builds and he starts to scream.
After the laughs, Layla goes out to the trunk to get the beers and we get the POV of someone watching her. She hears something coming from the nearby woods and, for a second, I thought she was going to investigate it but I forgot she was the main character. Layla grabs the beers and runs into the car telling the rest about the noise.
After laughing off their fear, the group attempt to summon the ghost lady carrying a lantern that haunts Lantern’s Lane. Apparently, you can do this by turning on your headlights. Unsurprisingly this doesn’t work. But, we learn the origin of the ghost was a woman who went out searching for her lost husband and was murdered by an unknown person.
Layla implies she’d like to leave but Missy opposes and instead, the group drive up to the nearby abandoned house where the ghost lady lived. Layla points out it’s not even the original house but still refuses to go in.
Because of Layla’s refusal, the rest of the group reluctantly agree to leave but Jason’s car mysteriously won’t start… UH OH! Missy refuses to stay in the car all night and decides to go in. With no other choice and due to it being cold, the rest of the group agree.
I’d also like to point out that the entire time these scenes have been happening, the instrumental music in the background is playing some sort of carnival horror music. It’s pretty jarring and it’s actually downplaying the attempts at creepy and horror that the movie is trying to do.
Standing outside the house, Missy asks “Whose idea was this again?” It was hers, it was Missy’s idea. The dialogue in this movie is really making me regret watching this, maybe it gets better.
Since the house is boarded up, the group split up to find a way in. Jason and Shana head around back and Jason steps on
the movie a pile of shit. Not realizing what he stepped in, he wipes it on his finger and smells it. He and Shana gag as he wipes his finger off and the two question his actions. She then calls him shit-boy as they continue searching for a way in… comedy!
Meanwhile, Missy and Layla are walking around the other side of the house and stop when Missy hears a sound from the woods. Layla didn’t hear it but hears the sounds of birds (which are clearly a recording of daytime bird calls despite it being night) and spots a birdhouse. She then does a bird call which I can only assume will wake up the sleeping birds.
The two hear laughter coming from behind the house and find Shana and Jason with keys that they found under a plant by the door. Inside, the place is covered in graffiti, trash, and random broken furniture. After finding and lighting a lantern the group sits around in the living room as Layla picks up the key to test it out for some reason.
Shana and Jason then share the backstory of the house. Twenty-five years ago, while the house was under construction, a group of teens snuck in and were killed by a squatter. Layla questions what their next move is since they’re stranded with no way home. Jason then reveals he lied about the car not working and that Shana and Missy were in on it.
Missy defends their actions by saying it was the only way to keep Layla hanging out. Layla laughs it off but Missy still snaps at Layla regarding their friendship. After that awkwardness, the group decides to search the rest of the house… for fun?
Shana and Jason head downstairs, but nothing interesting happens. Layla and Missy search the first floor and it becomes pretty clear that Missy, Shana, and Jason have another prank planned. While searching a bathroom there’s a pretty awkward exchange between Layla, Missy, and menstrual pads that really adds nothing except to tell us there are pads in the house.
Walking into the next room, Missy finally shares her true feelings of betrayal by Layla’s abandonment. This scene is constantly swinging between pretty good acting and terrible acting and honestly, it really feels like it’s because of the script.
The group reconvenes in the living room and finally decide to leave. Back in the car, Jason tries to start it but it refuses, claiming that this time it’s not a prank. With no other choice, the group reluctantly return to the house. A few moments later they hear a banging from outside.
Shana checks between the boards on the window but doesn’t see anything. The rest of the group see someone in a hood walking past the window.
Layla rushes downstairs and locks the door just as the person tries to open it. The group debate who their would-be intruder could be and Shana suggests she run out to the car as she has a knife in her purse. Layla refuses to let her go out there but Shana is adamant. The killer then appears at the window brandishing a knife as they stare at them through the boards.
Layla turns off the lantern because turning off the lantern after the killer is already looking at you really makes sense…
Jason offers to go to the car himself but Shana shuts him down by saying she’s faster. The group finally relents on letting Shana run to the car but she asks for the key before she leaves… suspicious.
Story-wise it makes sense why she would ask for it; Layla and Missy once abandoned Layla’s sister Hayley on Lantern’s Lane. But, as it was a quick comment at the start of the movie and hasn’t been referenced since, it just makes Shana look suspicious. This also could have been the perfect spot to drop the ‘Layla and Missy being bullies to Hayley in high school’ organically instead of randomly earlier.
Shana sneaks to the car (so it didn’t matter if she was faster) and gets her knife. Instead of immediately running back to the house, she victoriously displays the knife to the group who are watching her from the front door. That goes down just as you’d expect it.
The killer slashes at Shana and stabs her. Though we don’t see it as the car door is blocking. Now outside the house, Layla screams for the killer to leave her alone but it’s ineffective (duh). Missy and Jason start to laugh and they reveal to a very angry Layla that it’s all a prank with Braxton in the costume.
Missy and Jason yell out to Braxton to take off the mask but it’s quickly apparent that the killer is not Braxton. The real Braxton (with impeccable timing) comes walking out of the nearby woods clutching his stomach covered in stab wounds. Missy runs over to him as he falls to the ground and dies.
The killer runs at Jason and Layla who rush back to the house while Missy is forced to head around the back. Before they can close the door, the killer is able to stab Jason in the leg.
We cut back to Missy to watch a full minute-long scene of her just moving 6 feet. Nothing else happens, there’s no plot movement, no foreshadowing, no dialogue just Missy hearing a sound and wiping Braxton’s blood on the grass.
Back to the actual movie; Layla uses the menstrual pads and some electrical tape to bandage up Jason’s leg. But how could electrical tape exist in this house if we didn’t see a completely unnecessary scene to establish it’s in the house like we did for the pads?
Layla spots Missy hiding by the greenhouse behind the house but also sees the killer nearby looking for her. As a distraction, she uses Jason’s car keys to remotely unlock the car causing it to chirp. As the killer runs back to the car, Layla opens the door and uses a birdcall to get Missy’s attention.
Missy heads around back, squeezes through a wire fence, and waits for Layla. As Layla arrives, with a metal pipe, so does the killer on the other side. It then takes Missy longer to go through the same fence she went through very easily just moments earlier. This leads her to get stabbed in the back.
Back in the house, Layla patches Missy up with the pads and tape as she starts to lose consciousness. Layla devises a plan to leave and find Braxton’s car but she’ll need to get the keys on his body first.
Missy wakes up struggling to breathe causing Layla to run over to her and apologize for not being there for her. Missy says “You’re here now.” So I guess she didn’t hear what Layla’s new plan is. I’m going to save you from the boring details and myself from typing it all out; the plan works and Layla reaches Braxton’s car.
At the car, Layla hears a still-alive Shana calling out to her mom. The killer appears revealing themselves to be Shana’s mom, Janet. Turns out the two planned it all together with the original plan involving Shana getting the house key before faking her death.
The new plan is for Shana to tell her friends she’s still alive and then get them to let her in the house. Shana questions how that will work as she has no wounds on her and Janet agrees, so she stabs her in the stomach.
Janet tells Shana to get in the house and tell the group she got a text to go through. Janet will then pull up in her car and they can get to murdering. Shana agrees and the two go their separate ways. In the car, Layla finds Braxton’s gun before we cut back to Shana arriving at the house.
As Jason goes to find more pads for her wound, Shana sits next to Missy and wakes her up asking her to let her check her wound. In probably the best scene of the movie, Shana reveals she is working with the killer to a confused Missy as she pulls out a knife and stabs her. We also get confirmation that the reason Shana and Janet are killing the group is because they blame them for Hayley’s suicide.
As Missy dies, Shana positions her back on the couch and wipes away the blood from her mouth. Meanwhile, in the bathroom, Jason has found the pads but questions himself, why Shana wasn’t surprised that he and Missy were stabbed.
Returning to the living room, a suspicious Jason tells Shana he doesn’t know where Layla is as she abandoned them. A car arrives and Shana opens the door revealing her mom while Jason questions why she didn’t call the police instead.
Janet walks in brandishing the knife and questions where Layla is. Meanwhile, Layla sneaks in through the backdoor and hides when she hears Janet tell Shana to look for her. After seeing the backdoor open, Shana returns to Janet and informs her Layla must have ran out.
Jason tries to convince them to not kill him but Janet angrily monologues that she blames them for Hayley’s death and once again questions where Layla is.
Layla makes a dramatic reveal but hides the fact that she is holding a gun by wrapping it around a blanket. We learn from Janet that Hayley used to worship Layla but Layla paid no mind to her and Janet believes it led to her death. Layla tells her the real person responsible is her which sends Janet into a rage.
She lunges at Layla but Layla simply shoots her, killing her instantly. She then points the gun at Shana who tries to convince her it was all her mother’s idea and that she actually hated her mother.
Shana begs her to let her be her friend and apologizes for killing Missy. Layla did not know Missy was dead so this was a mistake on Shana’s part. Layla shoots and kills Shana. Of course, like every horror movie you need to double-tap the killer. Janet jumps up screaming but is shot in the head by Layla.
The film ends with Layla and Jason walking down the road noting how they never saw the ghost with the lantern. Why the fuck is this the topic of conversation instead of the traumatic events of the night? Because, before the credits roll, we see a ghost with a lantern walk down the road in the distance…
Lantern’s Lane is bad but it’s weirdly almost good in a ‘so bad it’s kind of good’ way. It’s also a perfect example of how you can correctly write a movie but have horrible execution. Just want to point out, correct doesn’t mean good.
By the end of the movie you know who every character is, you know their motivations, you know how the killer’s plan worked, you have no questions but it’s all so poorly done it’s disappointing.
First some positives. Sydney Carvill (as Shana) does a great job, you can tell she’s having issues being around Layla and blames her for Hayley’s death but has to go through with the plan which means faking being friendly. When she’s finally able to be the villain and kills Missy, it’s the best scene because of her monologue. She also has some good subtle moments sprinkled throughout, like constantly looking at the key because she knows she needs to get it back.
Ashley Doris (as Missy) also does a pretty good job in a few scenes despite the dialogue written for her. The rest of the cast are okay but everyone has some poorly acted scenes or feel wooden at some points when delivering lines.
The ending twist is alright, by process of elimination it could have only been Janet and since Shana’s death is offscreen, it wasn’t surprising.
Now a few negatives; the dialogue. There’s lots of extra dialogue that doesn’t help the story in any way or reiterates what another character just said, for example, Missy says “Maybe the house wants us to go in?” And Layla responds “Why would the house want us to go in?” This is essentially the same redundant sentence that leads nowhere since the topic changes immediately and it was never established that anyone thought the house was haunted.
Having Missy give the audience so much exposition in a 90-second scene was a bad decision. Everything she said gives context and backstory; it should be in the movie but it felt so forced and oddly placed. That dialogue and plot details should have been sprinkled throughout.
Lantern’s Lane is also supposed to be a horror-comedy but it has really bad ‘jokes’ for example: Besides the stepping-in shit scene I mentioned above, at one point Jason says he “didn’t have the balls to go in” the house when he was younger. Shana asks if he has the balls now and Jason replies “Elephant balls!”
The instrumental music playing in the background of scenes ruins them, it doesn’t add terror or even comedy. It feels so out of place.
All of this made Lantern’s Lane feel like a really bad episode of Goosebumps from the 1990s. At least Goosebumps had an excuse; small budget and being forced to be 22 minutes long. But, I loved Goosebumps so going into this movie with the mindset that it’s a longer, sometimes worse version of that, actually makes it better.
Overall I don’t recommend Lantern’s Lane but if you like Goosebumps (the show) and are hoping to see something you can make fun of then I guess you should give Lantern’s Lane a chance.