An intransigent, stripped-down chiller, In Fear – the first feature by writer/director Jeremy Lovering – boasts a plot of bold simplicity with an asphyxiating sense of tension. With a troupe of just three actors, a car and the sprawling countryside, In Fear is yet another well conducted film to look at the disconcerting prospect of social alienation outside of the modern world.
Planning to attend a music festival in rural Ireland a young couple, Tom and Lucy (played by Iain De Castecker and Alice Englert), following a brief altercation with natives at a local pub, are in search of their hotel, booked as a surprise to celebrate their two-week anniversary. Soon, though, they find their provided directions worthless, and the signposts serve only to lead them endlessly in circles. Lost, without phone reception, in a labyrinth of country roads the night drawing in and petrol running low, it soon becomes apparent there is someone or maybe something outside watching them, and so to the possibility they have fallen to become victims of a vindictive game. Anxiety rapidly sets in and the relationship, pushed, begins to fray.
Released without much fanfare it’s a surprisingly accomplished British horror film and certainly one of the best for some time. Though little in it will feel new or unfamiliar, its Lovering’s ability to tie tired tropes together with a distinct directness and spirit that make this a refreshingly taut, methodical affair, from an eminently ardent director.
It’s the work of someone who displays a fervent love of the genre, its crucial component, and fundamentally does not underestimate their audience, a damning pitfall of so many recent excursions in horror. Lovering makes a brave and conscious decision to sustain his homespun concept until its necessary conclusion, and for this he should be commended. Well paced, with decisive understanding, the anticipation of fear is spurred with pointed bathos and black humour, whilst improvised dialogues and Lovering’s withholding of curial and revealing parts of the script from the cast form strong convincing (if difficult to like) characters. Roly Porter and Daniel Pemberton’s score is also fantastic, droning and foreboding; it underpins the dramatic tension superbly.
In Fear is not a film without its flaws, and its failure to establish a strong relationship between audience and character does unfortunately prove telling, leaving a difficult sequence before its final resolution slightly out of kilter, and the potency of ending itself somewhat muted. In Fear, however, is a promising debut, an intelligently made psychological horror; rigorously tense it stands tall above this year’s insipid releases from the James Wan canon. It’s a film to be seen and an effort to be praised.