In Fear (Blu-ray / DVD)
Directed by Jeremy Lovering
Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment
A movie can have all the jump scares in the world and buckets of blood can be fun, but neither guarantees a good horror movie. What makes great horror is tension and suspense. And if you have tension and suspense, you can get by without the buckets of blood and the jump scares. In Fear is a stripped-down film with really just three cast members, but it's loaded with tension and suspense and takes viewers on an exciting ride… literally.
The real crazy part about this movie is that it was created without the actors being given a script ahead of time or having any idea what was going to happen to their characters. In Fear could be considered a psychological experiment as to just how actors would respond to truly frightening, unexpected stimuli and if that genuine fear would be successfully conveyed to the audience. It worked.
The film follows a young couple, Tom and Lucy (played well by Ian DeCaestecker and Alice Englert), celebrating their two-week anniversary. They initially plan to spend the evening with friends at a weekend music festival, but plans (as they often do in horror films) changed, leading to a series of unfortunate events. Tom secretly books a room at a remote hotel for the couple, and they blow off plans for the music fest for the night. With a mysterious confrontation that happened between Tom and a group of locals at a pub while Lucy was in the bathroom seemingly in the past, they venture off to find the Hotel Kilaidney.
Things slowly start to go wrong, and it begins with the fact that the hotel is incredibly hard to find. Signs first start by contradicting GPS mapping and then contradicting themselves, seeming to change as the couple find themselves driving in circles. There is no cell service, darkness begins to fall, fuel is running low, and Tom and Lucy begin to realize they are certainly not alone on this seemingly deserted road.
The tension begins to build and the couple start to come apart. Questions arise as to what happened in the pub when Lucy was in the bathroom. Do the locals have something to do with why they can't find their way to the hotel or even their way back to the main road? In Fear begins to have a Straw Dogs feel to it, and then things get even worse.
Huge kudos need to be given to whoever was able to find the incredible locations used in the film. In addition to an amazing spot where the finale of the film was shot, the majority of the movie takes place on this fantastic roadway that is surrounded by weeds higher than the car in most places that provide a constant looming and trapped feeling. This claustrophobic road nearly becomes a character itself as it is such an important part of the film. Additionally, a ramshackle shed Tom and Lucy repeatedly pass while driving in circles provides a really creepy spot for one of the tensest scenes in the film.
As things are spiraling out of control, our pair come across another traveler on the road, Max (played by Allen Leech). Bloodied with a cut over his eye, Max joins Tom and Lucy, telling tales of wild locals terrorizing the roads. But something seems off about him, or does it? The decisions they make from here on out will decide if any of them will survive the night.
The cast is very effective. In a film as pared down as this one is, the cast is crucial. DeCaestecker will be recognizable to viewers from his work on ABC's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." as will Englert, who starred in Beautiful Creatures, and Leech for his work on "Rome" and "Downton Abbey." It's a nicely experienced cast for director Lovering, who has worked quite a bit but whose In Fear marks his feature film directorial debut.
There are a few moments of F/X, but that is not what sells the film. In fact, the actual violent scenes are not all that impressive except for one toe-curling broken wrist… yikes! There are a few inconsistencies with the blood on the actors, and the one notable jump scare is so perfectly placed that it's actually predictable. Lovering put it where it should go, but seasoned horror viewers will see it coming almost to the second.
Those two small shortcomings being noted, In Fear is an extremely effective film. Lovering gets more and more out of his cast as things get deeper and deeper in the movie, and they are really impressive. The unique thing about In Fear is that once everything is revealed, you kind of get what you expected but never expect to get it. Things work out almost how they would need to, but you're still surprised as a viewer. It's a unique feeling to kinda know how things are going to work out but still be surprised when you pretty much had it figured out. You'll have an idea how things are going to turn out, but you won't get it all. Not by a longshot.
As for special features on the disc, they are limited to simply a 12-minute behind-the-scenes featurette containing interviews with director Lovering and actors Englert and DeCaestecker as well as a couple of producers. It mainly speaks on the uniqueness of the film being made without the actors having a script ahead of time or prior knowledge of how the story would play out.
For a feature debut, Lovering does a great job. As mentioned earlier, the most important thing for a horror film to deliver, step one before anything else, is tension; everything else is gravy. Lovering delivers tension almost from the opening scene and does not let the audience go until the credits roll. The tiny cast should be proud of their performances (especially Englert, who really lets it go as her character begins to unravel) as this little trio all deliver as needed.
In Fear could easily have driven off the road. You have a cast of three characters, one of whom doesn't even arrive until past the halfway point of the movie. You have the majority of the film shot in a car. Wonderful direction by Lovering and a cast that packs a punch, along with fantastic locations that become integral parts of the movie, help give the audience a suspenseful experience that's definitely worth a look.
3 1/2 out of 5
1 out of 5