Wednesday, March 12, 2014

IN FEAR (2013) Blu-ray review

In Fear (2013) d. Jeremy Lovering (UK)

Despite its ridiculously generic title, this latest Brit export starts off as one of the more promising white-knuckle thrillers we’ve seen in a while. The set-up is simplicity itself: only a couple weeks into their relationship, a young couple decide to take a road trip to Ireland for a music festival and some camping. Unbeknownst to Lucy (Alice Englert), Tom (Iain De Caestecker) has designs for a romantic getaway at a secluded hotel, directions to said lodging cordially provided by following the establishment’s vehicle. But after being escorted to the hotel’s driveway, the truck departs, leaving our heroes to find their way via helpful handy signs with helpful handy arrows that only lead them deeper into the twisted back roads and helplessly in circles. As night falls and fuel levels slowly ebb, the two young would-be lovers desperately search for a way out. And then Lucy sees a white-masked figure in the dark....

As a veteran of many a road trip, I am all too aware of how easy it is to become lost in unfamiliar surroundings and writer/director Lovering and his able duo of performers nail this panicky quality in spades. The first 30-40 minutes of the journey - where Tom and Lucy go from flirting to gentle disagreements about which way to turn to freaking out - are absolutely stellar, a steady ratcheting up of tension and emotion that plays heavily on the fact that the relationship is still very new and the level of trust a little dicey.

To further aid this authenticity, Lovering and producer Nira Park (Shaun of the Dead, Sightseers) hit upon the experimental approach of not revealing the script to the performers, allowing their emotional journey to play out naturally on screen. Similar to the approach taken by Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick for The Blair Witch Project, Englert and De Caestecker were given rudimentary instructions prior to each scene (the film was shot in sequence) and instructed to respond in character to whatever occurred next. This improvisational tone and the fact that the majority of the action takes place inside a single vehicle only heightens the sense of realism and claustrophobia.

Unfortunately, around the halfway point, the creative team feels obliged to introduce a third, and highly suspect, element into the equation; while it doesn’t submarine the entire enterprise, it does changes the nature of the scares and feels much less genuine and inspired as a result. I won’t go into details, but this narrative left turn basically transforms the movie we were watching into a different, and for me, less satisfying if still effective one.

The chill of the unknown almost always resonates deeper than a run-of-the-mill psycho-on-the-loose; it’s too bad that in the end, the more conventional road was taken. But personal preferences aside, chilly memories of In Fear are bound to rise the next time your GPS loses its signal on a lonely forgotten stretch of highway.

In Fear is available now in limited theatrical release and VOD, as well as Blu-ray and DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment. The home video discs contain a game little 12-minute making-of featurette, discussing the unusual filmmaking process with Lovering, Park, and the two stars.

--Aaron Christensen, HorrorHound Magazine

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