road trip

All posts tagged road trip

In Fear and the Demise of A Romance

Published March 16, 2014 by rmpixie

in fear

In Fear (2013, 85 mins)

In Fear was one of the films I was looking forward to seeing.  So far, I have only been disappointed by the movies on my must-see list, but thankfully, this time I was pleasantly surprised.  In the vein of The Hitcher (1986) and Wolf Creek, this no frills thriller delivers lots of tension and suspense on the Irish back roads with just a car, a couple and the dense, dark night.

Tom (Iain de Caestecker) and Lucy (Alice Englert) are in the early stages of a blossoming romance.  Two weeks into their relationship, Tom plans a road trip to a music festival in Ireland and a surprise overnight stay at a secluded hotel called the Kilairney House Hotel he has found online.  He is quite pleased with his plans to take their romance to the next level, and Lucy agrees to this, although she is slightly annoyed with his surprise.  They follow a hotel guide car deep into the deserted Irish countryside until they arrive at a gate with the hotel sign.  Carrying on without the guide, they are left only with Tom’s printed map, confusing road signs and unsettling occurrences.  When they assist a man they hit on the dark roads, their idyllic trip quickly leads them to a terrifying descent into the unforgiving night and a relentless, unseen stalker.

I love a great road trip movie in any genre, and I really liked this one because of the added psychological horror element.  For some, this story may not be anything new, but in this case, the way it was told was refreshing because it was also a character study.  I have read countless articles in magazines where there is a new relationship tested with a fatal disease, death or other stressful and life-changing events.  Some go the distance, but many can’t withstand the extraordinary circumstances.  In Fear made me think of these articles as we see Tom and Lucy discover things about each other’s personalities that may have revealed themselves further into their relationship, and potentially disappointed them after a longer investment of time.  Their ordeal was an exercise in trust, patience and in the end loyalty that might have shattered a 20 year relationship, let alone one of two weeks.

I liked how as the day got darker and the roads got narrower, the film itself became more claustrophobic.  Each twist and turn in the oncoming darkness made the tension rise, leading us from one mysterious event to another.  I am a stickler for lighting in a film, and the more creative it is, the better.  Director Jeremy Lovering’s minimal lighting design was really effective in creating suspense and dread.  The light source in many of the scenes was limited, making the unknown even more ominous and forcing us to focus on the action at hand.  Many of the camera angles and intense close-ups gave an uncomfortable view of the couple and illustrated their desperation as they became more and more lost literally and figuratively.

In many an interview, Lovering revealed that the dialogue was improvised and details of scenes were kept secret until he felt it necessary to tell the actors.  He did this to create a real sense of fear which I thought was successful.  de Caestecker and Englert gave believable performances as a new couple learning to trust each other on their first trip away together.   Allen Leech brought us a tense portrayal of the ambiguously motivated Max who the couple accidentally run over.  His character provided an interesting turn of events and tested Tom and Lucy’s instincts to the max.

If you are looking for a joyride in the countryside, you’re watching the wrong movie.  In Fear will take you on a tense, claustrophobic drive into a horrific nightscape that holds secrets, psychos and many a frayed nerve.

Book Review: The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper

Published March 26, 2013 by rmpixie

The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper
Simon & Schuster, March 2013

 

When I was in university, I despised every minute of it.  I could count the professors with a touch of humanity on one hand.  Most of them walked around campus like pompous zombies; tenure wrapped around their jowls like a comforting scarf.  I remember studying John Milton’s Paradise Lost, and I was somewhat interested, but the drone of the zombie profs made me want to scratch my eyes out.  Thankfully, Mr. Pyper has renewed my interest in that centuries old poem with his new novel The Demonologist.  It gets new life as the core to this story, acting as a guide to a horrific journey for one man and his daughter.

David Ullman is a professor of English, with a specialty in mythology, religion and Milton’s Paradise Lost.  He is also an expert on demons, but is a self-proclaimed “atheist biblical scholar”.  He seems lost in life and lacks faith in most things.  His marriage is ending, he has a sympathetic best friend Elaine who worries about his mental state, and he is tethered only by his daughter, Tess.  She is the one person that understands his distant, blocked state, and their bond is unquestionable.  One afternoon, he is approached by a mysterious woman who offers him a consulting job.  No real details, just an all expenses paid trip to Venice, a large advance and an address where he is to observe a “phenomenon”.  Ullman decides at the last-minute to take the offer and heads off with Tess to the ancient city, attempting to distract the both of them from an almost certain divorce.  There, he is witness to a harrowing experience of demonic possession, and the unfortunate loss of his daughter to a bizarre, seemingly suicidal end.  He is haunted by the knowledge that he must find his daughter whom he believes to be still alive, and to do so must piece together a puzzle with the help of Milton’s epic poem and a wily, arrogant demon.   And so begins Ullman’s journey where he is forced to deal with personal, literal, and literate demons.

This was the first book in a long time that I read cover to cover in one sitting. It was also the first book I’ve read by this author.  For me, it combined all the elements of a good story:  a road trip (albeit it from Hell), soul-searching (literally), and chasing the devil. Pyper writes with a sophistication that is veiled in simplicity. He created images that were immediate, intense and eerie. I thought the use of Paradise Lost as a moral and literal road map was genius, and it also helped me understand the poem and make it relevant again.  The reviews of this book claimed that the story would scare you silly, but I found that melancholy resonated more for me than fear.  I got David’s displacement from the real world; how he buried family tragedy for decades and the only way he was able to deal with it was through a literal fight or flight deal.  I also loved the relationship between David and his best friend Elaine.  They were a constant comfort to each other, and they revealed a love that would go light years beyond the physical.  David’s character had a likeability and an endearing tenacity once he was backed into the proverbial corner that gave the age-old good versus evil an interesting spin.  It was more like flatline versus evil, and once the devil lit a fire under him, so to speak, we finally got a pulse.  Tough way to realize you’re alive, but hey, whatever it takes!

Andrew Pyper also gets a nod from me because he is a Canuck.  More accurately, he lives in my home town Toronto.  And there are reports that The Demonologist will be adapted for the big screen in the future.  I am curious how the movie will translate, but I don’t think it will be difficult, since I found the book to be quite vivid.  Pyper brings us a great, creepy story that infuses life into the horror novel genre, and hopefully the movie theatres soon.  Read it!

http://www.andrewpyper.com/

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