The eagerly anticipated film In Fear (review here) will be released in select theaters this Friday, March 7, with its Blu-ray/DVD/VOD release on March 11. Recently director Jeremy Lovering spoke with Dread Central about working on his feature film debut.
For starters, Lovering gave potential viewers an idea of what they can expect when they sit down to watch In Fear. “There is a lot of suspense, unknown threats from the dark, a lot of driving around getting lost, some tears, a few smiles, an act of betrayal, an act of violence, a tiny slice of hope, home invasion in a car and a messed up logic that results in murder-by-proxy.”
That’s a lot to be squeezed into one film, but Lovering does a very nice job of fitting it all in. He continued, “I wanted to make a film that was genuinely and thrillingly scary as you watch it and that stayed with you after and got under your skin,” he said. “It relies on a steady build of suspense that never lets up and hopefully puts you right in the back seat of a car with a couple who’ve only known each other two weeks and are now going away together. As it gets dark and they get lost, slowly they realize they might not be able to trust each other or themselves or anything that’s ‘out there’ – so it’s a perfect date movie with plenty of ‘what-the-hell-would-I-do-in-that-situation?’ moments.
Part of the eeriness of the movie is created by some outstanding filming locations. The director told us what he was looking for when scoping out the perfect spots to shoot. “I definitely wanted to find an environment that wasn’t totally hostile, yet seemed to harbor some sort of pagan threat,” Lovering said. “It had to have great beauty and yet could become dangerous as we foist our fears upon it. In some way I also wanted the car to feel like it could be a spacecraft, drifting in an anonymous, alien world that belonged in a fable. Practically I wanted a network of roads that you could drive on for a significant time without recognizing where you were or seeing any human habitation. This was incredibly important for the characters’ sense of isolation and unease. I also wanted to find an area that could quite literally ‘close down’ through the film, starting with melancholic wide open moorland and finishing with impenetrable forest with a network of roads that got smaller and smaller in between until, quite literally, the branches of the hedgerow were scratching the car. All this we could only find in Cornwall in the west of England, an area that in many ways has remained isolated from the rest of the UK forever.”
Lovering creates incredible tension in the film. In Fear starts you off just mildly uncomfortable, then slowly squeezes the viewer as it goes on. “I really wanted to create a suspense film, a psychological horror that relies on tension rather than gore,” Lovering said. “I think the most important thing was that we totally believed in our characters and what they were going through and the anticipation of how it might go wrong. I shot the film without giving the actors a script or even telling them the story so they had absolutely no idea what was going to happen to them or if their character would live or die. Combine this with endless mind games and physical threats, and it meant they were constantly in a state of genuine fear, genuine anticipation and twitchy unease. As a result we believe in their experience, and so their fear makes us feel afraid.”
Lovering expanded on his techniques of getting genuine responses from his cast. “In the edit I made a rule to only use the first take of any reaction to a ‘fear event,’ and I think this makes a huge difference in that there really is no acting in those moments. Structurally we spend a long time investing in our characters – even though we know little about them, we are with them for a while as things escalate from good to uneasy to creepy to bad to terrifying, and once it kicks off, it doesn’t stop. In many films in this genre there is an alternation between ‘chat’ and ‘bad stuff.’ With this film I deliberately followed a steady crescendo of ‘bad stuff’ without any letting go.”
Lovering continued, “Again, there is a commitment to a lack of explanation – we don’t know what’s causing the threat for a long time. We don’t know why anything is going on, and most importantly I think, we don’t know who we can trust. As the actors, and so the characters, weren’t sure what to trust about what is happening, so we don’t know what to believe, and that means we are deeply unsettled. David Katznelson did a fantastic job in lighting and shooting the film for suspense – we closed the frame down over the course of the film; we use empty space a lot so we are searching for what’s not there, imagining things where there aren’t any and glimpsing things where there are. We’re both up close in our heroes’ faces, seeing the terror in their eyes, and we are also outside, watching them flail around or starting to discover what might be in the dark.”
In Fear delivers a lot of what you look for in a good horror movie, and Lovering described how he tried to make it truly frightening. “There are some solid scare moments, and the level of expectation rises accordingly,” he said. “The dark and the driving are mesmerizing, and so there is a certain trippy constant threat – the time it takes to develop the primal fears [is] pretty much the same for both character and audience, but when the scares come, they are real scares. And lastly, the sound design and the sound composition work hard at pushing the suspense without delivering a climax. The music is about subsonics that at times you can’t hear so much as feel, so they erode away at our comfort zone, leaving us full of dread for what is about to happen. And finally, it was just about creating a world where we don’t want bad things to happen but we just know they will…and we are waiting, and that waiting is making us nervous.”
Lovering collected a small but very capable cast of Iain De Caestecker, Alice Englert and Allen Leech, and according to the director, they absolutely killed it out there. “All the cast were totally committed to the process – not giving them the story or a script, this totally made my life easier. I think they are quite brilliant, and they were able to take the emotions of the characters and make them real,” Lovering said. “As I wanted this to in some way be a fable, I had archetypes in mind, and so I needed actors who understood the archetypes, understood the themes, had personalities that in some way reflected those themes and could then translate that to a full character. I needed actors who could immerse themselves in the moment and improvise the dialogue, and I got really lucky. For example, there is one moment when the boy is in the car confessing he’s scared when the girl gets snatched by an unseen attacker and pulled into the dark. The boy chases and fights. When we shot it, Iain went into total shock – bless him, he needed a blanket and a warm cup of tea. Me and the producer looked at each other and both realized he had forgotten the fiction of what he was doing. And that was what I was after.”
Additionally, Lovering talked about how his shocking of the cast affected them. “To be honest, it was never difficult to get Alice, or Iain for that matter, to give emotionally,” Lovering said. “She was scared, it was dark and cold, she genuinely cared about Iain’s character, everyone was involved in playing the mind games, she’d been attacked, her loyalties were being tested, she had seen violence that she couldn’t do anything about, so I’d say she was pretty strung out. Ultimately she had to learn to trust not to trust me, and that is a pretty big and vulnerable-making adjustment. Also, she was part creator of her character and so knew what she would do in any given situation, and this was at times at odds to how she idealistically wanted her to be – that conflict definitely made a raw nerve.”
Lovering talked about what he found to be the most difficult part of filming In Fear. “Without a doubt it was the thing that also made it the most exciting…shooting without a script or giving the actors the story. It meant the safety blanket was gone and we were all exposed,” Lovering said. “That, and of course coping with my own guilt at having so royally messed with the heads of such nice people.”
Finally, the director briefed us on some of his upcoming projects. “There are several I’m talking about at the moment, including one which is a psychological horror in the vein of Jacob’s Ladder, another is a straight horror in the sort of world of Magic/Hider in the House and another is a remake of a late 70’s ghost story which I love and am of course tentative about messing with but which I think I’ve found a really interesting way in by pretty much filming the scenes in between the ones that were in the original and seeing the character’s POV that is not the one we had before. So we shall see… maybe I need to do a romantic comedy instead.”
In Fear opens in limited theatrical release on March 7 and hits Blu-ray, DVD and VOD on March 11. For more info follow In Fear on Twitter (@InFearMovie).
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