Film Title: In Fear
Director: Jeremy Lovering
Starring: Iain De Caestecker, Alice Englert, Allen Leech
Running Time: 85 min
IN FEAR ***
Jeremy Lovering’s effective debut seeks to employ some of Mike Leigh’s techniques to create a low-key, high-concept horror film. The two leads were given scant information as to the progress of the plot and the nature of the looming menace. Dialogue was improvised. The look of uncertainty on the actors’ faces is genuine. The risk pays dividends. Few of those found-footage horrors have managed the degree of authenticity that Lovering conjures up. True, the audience is sometimes as a confused as the quivering victims – how much of the narrative uncertainty is really intended? – but this remains a very effective slice of rural nastiness.
Fans of the 2003 horror Dead End will detect a few parallels with Lovering’s film. Lucy (Alice Englert) and Tom (Iain De Caestecker), a young British couple, are driving towards a rock festival in Ireland. Eager to cement the budding relationship, Tom has booked a room at a remote hotel. After a troubling trip to the local pub – pints are spilled and angry glances are exchanged – they follow the road signs into what seems to be an impenetrable maze. They keep coming back to the same spot. Those signs appear to offer contradictory information. Then Lucy spots a hooded figure. Are they being hunted by angry natives? Is it all a dream? Is something supernatural afoot?
You will be only marginally closer to answering those questions by the film’s puzzling close. The ride is, however, satisfactorily unsettling throughout. Downton Abbey regular Allen Leech – playing somewhat against type – is terrific as a blood-stained joker who might be doing the devil’s work. The perpetual gloom and nagging claustrophobia add to the growing atmosphere of menace. The disintegrating relationship within the car nicely mirrors the dissonance without.
If domestic horror fans can forgive the few infelicities as regards location – English number-plates on Irish cars; a place name from Darby O’Gill – they should get along very nicely with In Fear. Which is to say they will feel just the right amount of unease. DONALD CLARKE