We join Tom (Iain De Caestecker) and Lucy (Alice Englert) as they embark upon their first getaway as a couple. Tom has booked the Kilairney Hotel for the pair to enjoy some uninterrupted time together, but as they head to their location a number of horror movie clichés rear their ugly head. From a confrontation with a faceless Land Rover driver, to the road to the hotel chained shut (they open it), to the satellite navigation system losing signal. All the indications are there that point to uninspiring predictability as they follow an endless number of signs that indicate the hotel being in a specific direction, but just seem to be driving round in ever decreasing circles.
As the evening wears on tensions become a little more frayed between our young lovebirds as this wild goose chase continues. Finally Tom decides to stop and leave the security of the car to find someone to give directions. As the two head into the forest to look for some help the car alarm begins to sound, so the two run back and Tom goes to grab the keys he left in the ignition to switch it off – except they’ve gone. Thankfully the crisis is short-lived as he finds them on the ground nearby, although he’s convinced he left them in the car. It’s moments like this that occur in the first quarter of In Fear that pull it out by its lapels of that cliché-ridden vat of predictability. Small, subtle nuances that to me are far more frightening than bombastically orchestrated **BANGS!**.
After administering the necessary dosage of valium after watching In Fear, and once your heartbeat has returned to normal, it’s pretty obvious that you’ve just been watching a sublime British horror film. From its initial beginnings as a movie in which you feel you could likely scribble the complete narrative on the back of a napkin, it evolves into something quite unexpected – a taut, dark, psychological nightmare. At first it seems that the film will have more in common with the great Dead End (2003), but with the inclusion of a third party to this tense two-hander, a person whose intentions are initially hard to determine, it becomes another entity altogether.
While In Fear doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel with regard to what it offers, it does what it needs to thanks to some great technical ability. Much of the film is shot within the confines of the car, but using a variety of angles this limited perspective stays fresh and vibrant throughout the movies 81 minutes, while the decision to shoot scenes in order certainly enhances the gradually building tension. The two leads, De Caestecker and Englert – largely improvising their lines, are superb as the young couple in the infancy of a relationship, while the setting of Bodmin Moor (doubling as Ireland) is perfect for a film of this type with its barren vistas and endless hedgerow-lined single track roads.
I don’t tend to subscribe to the “you won’t see a better British horror this year” bandwagon, however films like this need your support and the more money you spend renting / buying / streaming them will ensure that other directors like Jeremy Lovering will deliver debut features as memorable as this.