out of Five
Running time: 85
Stylishly shot and almost unbearably tense, this is an atmospheric and genuinely scary British chiller with a superb script and a pair of excellent performances from Englert and De Caestecker.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by Jeremy Lovering, In Fear stars Iain De Caestecker and Alice Englert as Tom and Lucy, a young couple who have decided to travel to Ireland for a music festival, despite having only met two weeks previously. When they arrive, Tom tells Lucy he's booked them a night in a hotel before the festival starts, but their mood quickly sours when signposts to the hotel appear to be leading them in circles and they get lost while driving along the remote country roads. And as if that wasn't bad enough, the pair are terrified by an unseen menace, something that also seems to be targeting Max (Allen Leech, aka Downton Abbey's Branson), a bloodied local they pick up after accidentally hitting him with their car.
Alice Englert and Iain De Caestecker are extremely engaging as Lucy and Tom and their awkward chemistry is both convincing and effective, adding an extra layer of vulnerability and tension because both characters are acutely aware that they don't really know each other. Leech is equally good as Max, though the majority of the film is essentially a two-hander between Englert and De Caestecker, with the actors apparently kept as much in the dark as possible as to the story's direction, thanks to shooting in chronological order.
First-timer Lovering pulls off some brilliantly economical set-ups, such as establishing the relationship via two answering machine messages from Tom heard over the opening credits and then opening the film with the pair emerging from a local pub where they've just had an offscreen encounter with some locals that may or may not have serious repercussions. Lovering also proves himself as a master of slow-burning suspense, generating nail-biting tension by exploiting relatable fears such as getting lost on a strange road or hearing sudden noises in the dark.
Lovering's stripped down approach to his story pays great dividends, heightened by stylish cinematography from David Katznelson that makes strong use of both tight close-ups and dark spaces. On a similar note, Lovering is careful not to give away too much too soon, ensuring we (and the characters) only catch brief glimpses of whatever is out there early on and adding a number of unsettling details; the result of this is almost unbearably tense and whenever the characters stop the car you'll be hard pressed to stop yourself from yelling at the screen.
Superbly written and brilliantly acted, In Fear is a heart-stoppingly tense and genuinely scary British chiller that marks writer-director Jeremy Lovering out as a British horror talent to look out for. Highly recommended.