In Fear is quite a bold title choice for a horror film as those two words essentially are the genre’s manifesto. By all means this feature film debut by navigated TV director Jeremy Lovering (Sherlock, MI-5) does not disappoint and effectively lives up to those two words. Mind you though, this is not your average gory blood-fest or derivative piece of exorcism shenanigans that we’ve been constantly exposed to as per the genre’s recently popular trends. In Fear is a psychological horror/thriller that plays with the concept of the unknown and messes with your mind via (mostly) the unsettling and disturbing ways of the unseen.
The story couldn’t be more barren and although that’s surely dictated by inevitable low budget reasons, this narrative choice is also mostly a creative one. Tom (Iain De Caestecker) and Lucy (Alice Englert) are off to a festival in Ireland but they’ve only just started dating and Tom clearly would like some alone time with the girl. That’s why the lad has secretly booked a room in a countryside hotel to spend the night, though apparently with a mere romantically cute get-to-know-each-other-better agenda. Things kick off with the couple just getting out of a pit stop at a local pub and headed to join Lucy’s friends that are camping by the festival site. When Tom reveals his surprise, Lucy is reluctant at first but eventually endeared by the initiative, she gives in.
And so they drive off, these potential lovebirds, venturing the most desolated areas of the Irish countryside, looking for the enigmatic Kilairney Hotel that Tom has booked online, deemed as a slice of paradise. Once approached the remote woods where the resort is supposedly located, it doesn’t take too long for Tom and Lucy to realize how they are just running around in circles. The hotel signs they bump into along the way seem to be only confusing them more and get them back to square one. It’s official: they’re lost. In the blink of an eye it gets dark. But this isn’t just darkness. This is pitch-blackness in the middle of a forest. Narrow countryside unpaved roads, spooky tall trees, wind chill and a limited petrol tank. They’re isolated, practically trapped and about to find out they’re probably not alone…
Providing any further insight would be cruel and unfair just as much as the torturous path our two co-protagonists are set on in this wonderful little chiller of a movie. Director Jeremy Lovering has in fact crafted an ingenious piece, solely relying on atmosphere, cinematography, music score, image and sound editing, and last but not least the solid performances of his unnerved cast. His process was actually that of developing a treatment and basic dialogue guidelines about the situations for the actors to work off of. De facto he has left the rest to improvisation and deprived his two leads of any hint about where things were headed. His aim was that of capturing their descent into terror as authentically as possible by playing with the unbearable fear of the unknown.
Improvisation is tricky to pull off though and the lack of a proper script prevents In Fear from thoroughly fulfilling the promise of its premise but it’s undeniable how these ninety minutes are filled with genuine what-the-fuck moments. Entertainment is guaranteed thanks to the buckets of suspense from a scenario that indeed is realistic and for that reason creeps up on your skin even more. The bonus is a bit of philosophical rumination about the evil, violent side of human nature that lets you off on a pensive, debate-inducing note rather than the typical mind-numbing splatter overload we’re usually exposed to.
In Fear is out in UK cinemas this weekend.
Francesco Cerniglia – Junior Film Editor]]>