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.