Admittedly I had mixed feelings when presented with the opportunity to preview yet another horror movie, in this instance, ‘In Fear’. It was a hopefully sign that it was presented in the prestigious Sundance Film Festivals but still the nagging doubts formed by so many promising premises being ruined by the filmmaker embarking down the overly trodden path of replacing the traditional elements used in relating a tale of terror with the visceral imagery of outright torture. Right up front it demands to be fully noted the British director Jeremy Lovering has raised himself above this lamentably trend and made a major contribution towards returning horror to the glory it once held as a popular film genre. Not only is this film a tightly woven decent into the darkest recesses of the human psyche but it embraces a minimalistic style I have not seen this particular methodology as successfully used in a very long time. It is a matter of exceptional effort to make a psychologically driven thriller or horror movie in this fashion when a sizable cast of characters is available but this directed managed to excel with only three principle characters. This offering contains many aspects of experimental theater my late wife and I enjoyed in Greenwich Village. The tension is constructed solely by the interaction of the trio of characters. As if this wasn’t sufficiently arduous this filmmaker added to the constraints by restricting the majority of the action to a car. One of the most impressive factors here is this is one of the first times Mr. Lovering has worked with a feature length movie. A significant portion of his resume was built in television but considering his work environment is England. The most notable of which was the series three premier of the BBC’s outstanding show ‘Sherlock’.
Tom (Iain De Caestecker) and Lucy (Alice Englert) is a young couple embarking upon their first trip together. Their destination is a music festival located a rather considerable ways from where they live. Part of their itinerary is to spend the night in a secluded, rustic hotel. Unfortunately the degree of seclusion was more than they anticipated and they are unable to find their intended lodgings. They make a stop to get their bearings and for Lucy to visit the loo. In the dingy stall the wall are festooned with the usual rest stop epigrams including on reading; "If a man hurts an innocent person, then evil will fall back upon him and the fool will be destroyed." Lucy scrawls her comment, "or not" beneath. Unbeknownst to Lucy there is a peep hole secluded amidst the graffiti, an eye barely noticeable spying on her. Back in the car Lucy pulls some print outs from the glove box as they discuss just how lost they are. The overall tightness and efficiency in relating the story is firmly demonstrated minutes into the film. They situation has been neatly established in a nonchalant fashion affording more than enough room to escalate. The first subtle indication that they are not alone as well as the creepy nature of the stranger is introduced with the realistically identifiable plot device of the disguised hole in the wall of the stall. A person of harmless intensions would not peep on a young woman in the adjacent stall instantly marking him as a pervert of some sort.
The couple soon find themselves in a veritable maze of road that steadily increases the frustration and tension between Lucy and Tom. This undercurrent of dread is incessantly exasperated by a series of incidents that are obviously being deliberately perpetrated upon them. Lucy and Tom are still in the burgeoning stage of their romance having met only a couple of weeks before. As such there are still unaccustomed to each other which make the situation exceptionally emotional. Lucy initially presents as a sweet young woman but as the circumstances intensify she becomes terrified that they are being followed. Tom is just as certain that the danger is all in his companion’s mind. A more established couple would have possessed a stronger mutual understanding a trust. The novelty of the relationship is expertly infused into the story serving as one of several psychological facets that synergistically combine with the tradition plot devices requisite for this category of film.
Under any normal circumstances the very idea of picking up a strange man would be unthinkable. They way that the director was able to lead the audience to a mindset conducive to making such a leap over normal sensibilities is how the tension was magnified slowly, permitting the viewer ample time to put themselves in the place of the belabored couple. The instructions to the hotel were provided by the establishment but upon reaching the destination the connivance intended to bring them to the hotel had left. This put them in the untenable position of following a series of signs posted along the road. It is admittedly predicable that they were lead into a conflicting path by that means. Although a contrivance it is how the filmmaker presents it that matters. The labyrinth of roads is a form of McGuffin, crucial to the characters within the context of the story but rather inconsequential to the audience’s appreciation of it. By the time the mysterious hitch hiker is introduced, Max (Allen Leech) it is presumed he is a local resident attacked by the same unknown after the couple, their natural trepidation is belayed by the sense that they have rescued another victim menaced by the same mysterious perpetrator as they were. That assumption is quickly subject to suspicion.
As mentioned this is not the first directorial opus of Mr. Lovering but he is a nascent to feature films, making this movie more incredible than that circumstance would indicate is the underlying methodology he employed. There is no screenwriter cited here. The sparse dialogue was improvised by the actors. This necessitated them remaining deeply in character in order to properly understand how they would react and what words would be exchanged. The movie was uncharacteristic in another critical departure from normal filming practices; the scenes were filmed in chronological order. This facilitated the actor’s remaining in the moment as they were enacted in the proper order. This afforded an environment advantageous to the actors properly building the emotional foundation and proper psychological reactions to the circumstances as they were presented. I had mentioned that this movie was reminiscent of experimental theater; this is largely responsible for such a presentation. The film is an intensely taut experience with U.K. actors breaking out over here. Fans of the Marvel cinematic universe will recognize Iain De Caestecker as Leo Fitz in the television series, ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ while Ms Englert previously gave a brilliant performance in the unconventional love story ‘Ginger and Rosa’ opposite rising star, Elle Fanning. She also stared in the fantasy action film ‘Beautiful Creatures’. Allen Leech is a principle in the BBC period drama ‘Downton Abbey’. This cast might be small but in terms of talent and potential in their craft; quite formitable.