DIR/WRI: Jeremy Lovering • PRO: Jamie Biddle, Nira Park • DOP: David Katznelson • ED: Jonathan Amos • CAST: Ian De Caestecker, Alice Englert, Allen Leech
Tom (De Caestecker) and Lucy (Englert) en route to a concert in rural Ireland decide to have a romantic stop-off at a hotel for a night. However their attempts to find the hotel prove extremely difficult as road signs seem to lead them around in a circle. These difficulties turn sinister as night begins to fall and Tom and Lucy find themselves lost in a maze with strange things happening around them- giant trees falling, visions of a man in a mask, their possessions disappearing then reappearing on the road. Who or what is the cause of these things? And why are Tom and Lucy being targeted?
The intrigue and eeriness of this set-up is heightened by Lovering’s decision to utilise an intimate aesthetic coupled with the type of improvisational acting more prominently seen in the work of Mike Leigh or in realist dramas. It is an inspired idea to juxtapose horror with this type of acting as, instead of the paper-thin characters and by the numbers performances often associated with low-budget horrors, this film does a great job in making the audience feel as though they are watching real people going through genuinely terrifying events. De Caestecker and Englert (daughter of Jane Campion) immerse themselves wholeheartedly into this and give strong, believable performances.
When I discussed the film recently with the director he suggested that British film-makers have a tendency not to do straight genre but rather an elevated form of genre. Lovering’s decision to juxtapose realism into his Horror certainly acts as an elevation of the type he described. As well as this Lovering’s approach to violence in the film is more Michael Haneke than Eli Roth. His emphasis on the nastiness and messiness of violence and the horrors of its consequences allows the film to be viewed not only as the visceral rollercoaster ride that it is but also as a commentary on horror films in general. Lovering admirably refuses to give the audience the payoff of blood and gore that they perhaps desire in this sort of film, and while not quite Funny Games, he forces us to consider quite why it is that we desire this type of violent payoff and Horror’s relationship with violence in general.
The film also calls to mind the 2001 shocker Jeepers Creepers. Most obviously in the similar set-up of having protagonists being inexplicably stalked on the roads- in the case of Jeepers Creepers by a truck-, but also somewhat ironically by the fact that in that earlier film, the tension and intensity of its first act is squandered by a ludicrously unexpected supernatural twist. In Fear‘s only major fault is the opposite of that in that as the film progresses it moves away from the potentially otherworldly or unexplainable to a decidedly human form of evil that dispels the sort of uncanny horror that made something such as Ben Wheatley’s Kill List such a lingering, malevolent memory long after the credits had rolled.
Despite this In Fear remains a decidedly impressive piece of work that marks Lovering out as a talent to watch.
16 (See IFCO for details)
In Fear is released on 15th November 2013