Today: April 16, 2024

In Fear

Sundance London Review 

Tom (Iain De Caestecker – The Secret Of Crickley Hall, Filth) and Lucy (Alice Englert – Ginger & Rosa, Beautiful Creatures) have known each other for just two weeks but things are already beginning to click between them so Tom plucks up the courage to invite her to join him on a joyride to a music festival in Ireland.

As a romantic surprise, Tom decides to book a night at a luxury hotel for the two of them prior to meeting up with their friends the next morning. It’s not the easiest place to find and the sat-nav doesn’t work along the wee country roads.  Thankfully a Land Rover is there to guide them towards their romantic destination.  Until it leaves them lost at a crossroads.  To make matters worse, all the road signs pointing to their intended love-nest are misleading, causing them to drive around in circles, creating tension between the happy couple that isn’t helped by Lucy glimpsing a human shape with a white face in the shadows between the trees and bushes.  Is someone playing tricks on her?  Is Tom trying to scare her?  What is stalking them?  And why is this happening to them?  With their petrol and patience running out, will they reach their destination?

In his feature directorial debut, director Jeremy Lovering has put the skills he’s acquired from his vast television experience (Sherlock, Spooks) to good use in an assured and economical style, making the most of his locations (Cornish woodland and Bodmin Moor), confined spaces and the obvious sense of fear the young leads convey perfectly.  In a similar conceit to The Blair Witch Project and [REC], Lovering drip-fed the script to his actors, giving them the basic dialogue and leaving them to personally experience the increasing distrust and paranoia while the third member of the cast, Alan Leech, was informed of each twist and turn so he could play mind games to a better extent, brings out fantastically convincing performances from De Caestecker and Englert. Complementing the changes in atmosphere is a cleverly schitzophrenic score from Daniel Pemberton and Roly Porter as well as a genius sound design, alternating between quiet chills and bombastic thrills.

Unfortunately, the film’s weakness lies in a narrative that begins to unravel awkwardly and disappointingly in the second half, wasting the impressively mounting pressure and developing/fracturing relationship between Tom and Lucy, clues about the couple’s circumstances are revealed too early and a climax that seems too illogical to invest one’s trust in the story.  Most importantly, it loses its sense of entertainment, causing the audience to feel as desperate to get back on the main road as the leads themselves.

An impressive technical exercise and a quality thriller which makes the most of its budgetary and spatial limitations, In Fear serves as a great calling card for Lovering’s flourishing career in film, as well as showcasing the unquestionable talents of Alice Englert and Iain De Caestecker.  It’s just a shame the film runs out of fuel before the car does.

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