Jeremy Lovering’s In Fear is a chiller that gets under your skin from the very start; this horror cum road movie is one of the most stylish, well shot and beautifully directed horror films in years aided by it’s young stars; Iain De Caestecker, Alice Englert and Allen Leech. This low budget, British thriller takes leave from the typical strands of contemporary horror cinema filled with obscene violence and gore and instead opts to intelligently alienate and unsettle its audience through psychological fear, extreme tension and one of the best sound designs of the year.
De Caestecker and Englert play Tom & Lucy, a young new couple who are still in throws of getting to know each other. They have decided to meet up together to join a group of friends for a music festival but on the way, Tom reveals his plans that the two spend a night together in a romantic village hotel that he has arranged so that they get to know each other better. Despite closely reading the map, as evening draws in the two get lost on the way to the hotel. Whilst they believe it is just the two of them and their car in the middle of these very built up woods, they slowly learn they are not alone and a dangerous game of cat and mouse starts as a masked stranger taunts and torments them throughout the night. Whilst the darkness grows around them, the tension becomes too much for both Tom and Lucy and they start to fear that the very worst may happen to them – if only they can get through this one night together.
What In Fear most cleverly plays upon is our fear of the dark; something that horror movies have long since left to children’s stories and retro novels. Yet the greatest fear that someone can have is off the dark, at night when you are all alone and with only your thoughts, anything can happen and very often things do go bump in the night. Lovering’s intelligent filmmaking manages to create a tense and claustrophobic atmosphere, pulling the audience deeper into the woods with Tom & Lucy. Whilst the anxiety of the audience grows throughout the film, so does that of the characters, making their own tensions and worries build with the wonderfully paced script and tight structure of the film. At the high moments, when the two are at their most annoyed or scared, that is often when explosions of action happen and something shocks the audience.
Unlike a lot of current horror films, that rely mostly upon creating moments to make the audience jump and then return to calm until another moment arrives, In Fear slowly but surely creates this sense of horror and torment throughout, gripping from the very start until the final punch. Lovering’s camera is so calm and yet exploratory throughout the film; really admiring both the location and the characters. Whilst the car goes round and round in the forest, there is never a moment when the forest appears boring or that we have seen this all before, but instead the audience grow more tense as the characters appear to get deeper into the woodland. The other aspect that helps this hugely, is the sense of real time – whilst the film clearly doesn’t adhere to these rules and show the audience every moment of the night; the light does slowly dim from evening to night and at that very moment, time no longer matters and instead the audience simply see the sparse darkness that swallows up the characters.
The film cleverly plays with psychological aspects as well; the couple are being chased by a masked man throughout the night but oddly this little terror actually plays deeper on the audience’s psyche and creeps them out. The film is reminiscent of Haneke’s Funny Games but also provides the same shivers as something like The Shining with the unknown terror that surrounds the characters. Furthermore, the sound design is so precise and stunning that it really does cause the audience to be on the edge of their seats throughout as they can hear every little sound amplified in the forest, it is possibly the most powerful sound design since last years Berbarian Sound Studio.
The performances from both the main leads are really brilliant and present them both as upcoming British talent to seriously watch out for; they take this simple story, with a tight script in a sparse location and run with it, giving strict and genuinely scared performances. Leech who plays Max, the masked assailant is also terrifying as he confronts the couple and plays the character towards completely insane; further adding to the madness of the film.
In Fear is simply one of the scariest, most intelligent and brilliant horror films to have come out of Britain in years. It picks up on psychological troupes that have been long forgotten and reminds us that our deepest fears, may just be off the dark outside.