"“Jeremy Lovering does a fine job in provoking fear from the viewer...”"
First time filmmaker Jeremy Lovering has tried something innovative and inspiring with his debut production In Fear – as a psychological thriller that has been crafted in a somewhat original way, as unlike most films we see up on the big screen, this one was as much of a surprise to the stars of the production, as it is to the viewer. Lovering ensured that his cast were not informed of any plot points, throwing them in the same situations that the characters were in, an effective technique that has certainly paid off.
The film opens as Tom (Iain De Caestecker) asks Lucy (Alice Englert) to travel to a festival with him in Ireland, with hopes of a potential relationship in the near future. He decides to surprise Lucy to get the ball rolling, booking a night at a hotel out in the sticks to have some alone time before meeting their friends. However as they drive through the twisty, rural country roads, with signs pointing them in the wrong direction, tensions mount in the car, as the pair start getting disquieted, concerned about their well-being as paranoia kicks in – enhanced with the arrival of the lone rogue Max (Allen Leech).
The opening third of this title is incredibly tense and suspenseful – and there isn't truly any cause for it, as nothing particularly threatening has happened, it's just two people who are trying to find their way to a hotel and have got a tad lost. We've all been there, and yet it's petrifying. Not only is the sympathetic understanding of their situation a factor, but Lovering does a fine job in provoking fear from the viewer, with brilliantly timed jumps, an intense score and chilling camera angles, as we peer at the couple from a distance, as though seeing them from somebody else's vision, in a voyeuristic manner that really maximises the elements of horror.
What also helps is the unique way in which Lovering approached the shoot, as much of the fear we see on screen is genuine somewhat. While much like our protagonists, we seek solace in the car. Often it's the daylight that we crave for some comfort within the horror genre – like in Paranormal Activity or The Blair Witch Project – and yet in this you desire the safety and cover that the vehicle provides. This can't be exclusively defined as a horror mind you, and in a similar vein to Eden Lake, this is not a supernatural piece, it's naturalistic and our antagonists are human beings, which in a sense, actually makes it even scarier as it's more real – you can picture yourself in the scene and think, what would I do?
What is also important in this title is that we empathise with Tom and Lucy, and it helps that instantaneously we form a bond with the latter, as the film begins with a shot of her in the toilet, instantly signifying her vulnerability, endearing us to her somewhat. The uniformity of the pair is well crafted early on too, as they have jokey, flirtatious dialogue that adds to their normality which we need in order to find a common ground with them. We also need to see that progression from being cheerful to becoming so anxious and uneasy, to enhance the tension. The introduction of Max adds a light relief of sorts, although his character is a difficult one to judge as you're never quite sure whether you can trust him or not.
The one place In Fear truly suffers, is within it's somewhat inconsequential narrative, as a picture that relies so heavily on its tense atmosphere, that you almost forget that there is a narrative to follow, and it proceeds rather clumsily. Not an issue at first, but once the intensity dies down we become reliant on the story taking precedence, and yet we aren't left entirely satisfied, as the flaws become apparent.
That said Lovering is evidently going for simplicity, and he thrives within such an approach, particularly as so many films of the same genre can be accused of trying too much and becoming too intricate, often failing miserably as a result. However if there is one thing to take away from this film, it's to always read customer reviews of hotels before you go ahead and book a room. Just Expedia it, seriously.