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Fred Olen Ray’s adaptation of a Poe story, “Haunting Fear” takes inspiration mixed with gore to form this late 80s horror haunt.

A woman who can’t stop dreaming about being buried alive falls into danger when her husband and his mistress try to kill her for her money. Let’s dig into 1990’s HAUNTING FEAR, directed by Fred Olen Ray!

As I See It

Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s Premature Burial, in which the narrator obsesses over his fear of being buried alive (apparently a trending fear in the nineteenth century), Fred Olen Ray adapts the story to fit contemporary horror with a prime Brinke Stevens in a starring role.

Digging a little about the period paranoia of erroneous burial brings up contraptions that were patented to be placed in safety coffins and graves in case someone had actually been buried alive so they could call for help.

It seems more like primitive, inept doctors couldn’t bet money on their own examinations of “dead” patients. This oversold phobia served well for tale weavers from Poe to Fred Olen Ray.

Filled with dream sequences, you’re never really sure what scene is going to stick and which is a manifestation of Brinke’s character. The score is phenomenal, and it’s no surprise that it comes from Chuck Cirino (Chopping Mall).

We’re treated to a maniacal, bloody, practical effects-heavy finale with Brinke Stevens really piling it on in what ends up being a revenge story as she slaughters her husband and his mistress after they do, in fact, bury her alive.

“The boundaries which divide life from death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?” – Edgar Allan Poe

Famous Faces

Scream queen Brinke Stevens (Victoria) has been active since the early eighties and has been working at a feverish pace for the past few years. Some of her highlights include The Slumber Party Massacre, Body Double, and Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama.

Michael Berryman (Mortician) was born with a form of ectodermal dysplasia that resulted in many cranial surgeries and skin and hair conditions and lent to his distinct appearance. He has utilized that birthright and honed his craft over an almost fifty-year career in film and television, including Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes.

Robert Quarry (Visconti) starred alongside Vincent Price in Dr. Phibes Rises Again and Madhouse and continued working with Fred Olen Ray in a slew of films, including Evil Toons, Beverly Hills Vamp, and Teenage Exorcist.

Karen Black (Dr. Harcourt) starred in the seventies anthology horror Trilogy of Terror and many other films before finding contemporary horror fame as Mother Firefly in Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses. She was brilliant in that film, and it’s a shame it couldn’t work out for her to return for the sequel. She passed away in 2013.

Of Gratuitous Nature

We really needed those rough sex scenes with the secretary, and there’s no way we could have bought into the story without seeing Brinke Stevens in a bath or undressing for bed.


I’ll never understand the hairstyles from the eighties. I didn’t understand them when I was living through it, but Brinke Stevens is looking her best in this film. She looked fit enough to take on a Ripley-level role.

Ripe for a Remake

I’m not sure the scorned lover revenge film will ever go away. Mixing the fear of being buried alive may make this unique in that regard, but not necessarily worthy of a remake.


Brinke Stevens reportedly wrote a screenplay meant to be a follow up but it was never produced. Another prolific low-budget horror filmmaker, and arguably the most famous name from that category, Roger Corman, had adapted the same story back in 1962 titled The Premature Burial.

Where to Watch

Distributed theatrically by Troma, Retro Media released a Blu-ray of Haunting Fear with a commentary track from director Fred Olen Ray. You can stream it on Tubi, Plex, and Freevee.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 2.5

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