In Fear (2013)
Directed by Jeremy Lovering
More impressive than the final product of Jeremy Lovering's In Fear is the actual process employed in its creation. His core actors, De Caestecker and Englert, had no idea what was coming up for their characters, Tom and Lucy, during each scene. Provided only with guide dialogue and an outline of the scene, the actors were left to play before the cameras meaning that just about every shock, jolt, and cry of fear from them is ostensibly genuine. It's a brave undertaking, and while it may not translate entirely effectively to the screen, the intimate nature of In Fear is a perfect showcase for the style leaving it a capable and naturalistic little shocker.
In terms of plot, Tom and Lucy are a young couple who have been together a mere two weeks. Setting off in a car together to join friends at a music festival in Ireland, Tom reveals that he has booked a boutique hotel stay for their first night in the country. Getting there, however, proves to be more of a trial than expected. Guided half way by a Land Rover employed by the hotel, the pair are then left to follow the signs through a winding country road -- a task rendered distressingly difficult by the fact that the signs appear to simply be leading them in circles. Unable to get solid coverage on their sat nav, and befuddled by the none-too-clear printed map they've brought along, Tom and Lucy wind up driving into the night, and the depths of the fuel gauge, before finding themselves menaced by a mysterious person (or persons) hiding in the woods surrounding the road.
Hopelessly lost, unable to find their way out of the tree-lined labyrinth and set upon at every stop, the frightened couple eventually run into a wounded local (Max, played with smarmy, off-kilter relish by Allen Leech) who claims to know the gang responsible for terrorising them -- a group of bullish residents who Tom may have run afoul of at the nearby pub while waiting for their guide.
The plot is simple, owing as much to The Hitcher as it does to the likes of Dead End as Tom and Lucy become gradually overwhelmed by an escalating cat and mouse game and psychological battering. Being a low budget exercise with few players and locations, the simplicity of the proceedings is apparent but director Lovering manages to generate quite a few genuinely surprising shocks, while the performances of his key players act as a sturdy show reel of their improvisational abilities and, of course, the intentional toying with his cast lends a fresh, authentic feel to many of their terrified reactions.
Letting In Fear down, however, is a mid-section that drags out slightly too long with one or two too many passes of the same locations, staring incessantly at conflicting direction signs pointing towards the Kilairney House Hotel. The actual motivations of the film's villain feel particularly obtuse and hard to fully grasp, while Tom and Lucy are stuck making some rather harebrained decisions in the midst of a narrative that gradually begins to stretch on the edges of credulity as it progresses. Regardless, the film remains a taut little thriller that plays well, but only especially so when aware of the behind-camera manipulation involved.
3 out of 5