Review: In Fear / Cert: TBC / Director: Jeremy Lovering / Screenplay: Jeremy Lovering / Starring: Ian de Caestecker, Alice Englert, Allen Leech / Release Date: November 15th
In Fear is powered by a beautifully simple dramatic conceit. A young couple, just two weeks into a new relationship, is on their way to a music festival somewhere in Ireland. As a romantic gesture, Tom (De Caestecker, now one of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) has booked a room in an off-the-beaten-track country hotel so that he and Lucy (Englert) can get to know each other a little better before they meet up with friends. But they quickly get lost in wild, unfamiliar countryside, signposts directing them to the hotel send them round and round in circles; it’s getting dark, the petrol’s running low and there’s someone outside intent on seriously spooking them.
Writer/director Jeremy Lovering has crafted an incredibly taut, uncomfortable and intensely claustrophobic thriller. Set largely inside Tom’s car, the film is for the most part a two-hander, the playful and yet slightly nervous getting-to-know-you relationship between Tom and Lucy, turning into something edgier as they begin to appreciate first that they’re completely lost in unfamiliar territory and later that they’re being targeted by someone with a grudge out in the encroaching darkness. Tom’s jokey, eager-to-please banter and Lucy’s slightly coy standoffishness are quickly forgotten as night falls and desperation and panic set in. Lovering employs tight close-ups inside the car to create a real sense of dread accentuated by subtle, underplayed scares; half-seen figures looming out of the darkness or lurking at the side of the road, Lucy’s clothes stolen from the car during a moment when it's left unattended (the first real sign that something a bit odd is going on) and finally an ominous encounter with the terrified, bloodied Max (Leech) who quickly becomes an unwanted passenger.
A grim situation starts to get a whole lot worse – and just a little bit less plausible – for Tom and Lucy and it’s only now that the pair, who have already shown a tendency to behave irrationally, by constantly getting in and out of their relatively secure car in the dead of night on the vaguest of whims, begin to make decisions that can only encourage the audience to throw their hands up in despair and wail “Why the Hell did you do that?” There’s one particular moment when Tom, perhaps to reassert his mastery over the situation and his own masculinity, takes matters into his own hands and thereby sets the tone for the film's last act which is at once unbearably grim and impossibly frustrating because it could have been so easily avoided.
But for the most part In Fear, largely improvised with the two leads only broadly aware of the general direction of the story, is a quiet triumph. Gripping and immaculately staged, it’ll strike a chord with anyone who’s found themselves driving along narrow, muddy, unfamiliar country lanes in the early evening with no real idea where they’re going and hopefully serve as a reminder that, sometimes, there’s nothing quite like a handy Travelodge.
Expected Rating: 6 out of 10