Driving in the dark – ★★★½
2002’s 28 Days Later, 2005’s The Descent, 2008’s Eden Lake, 2011’s Kill List. Looking at that list it seems like every three years British horror submits an entry to my favourite films list. We’re a year early but 2013’s In Fear does a lot right as it tries to make it into that illustrious group.
Director Jeremy Lovering has done the rounds on UK TV and was rewarded with a modest budget for his debut feature Big Talk Productions, Nira Park’s company which made all of Edgar Wright’s films, Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block and Sightseers, the 2012 film from Ben Wheatley. In Fear tells the story of a young couple who travel from England to Ireland to attend a music festival but decide to divert for a hotel break at the remote and secluded “Kilairney House Hotel” (which for a bit of fun you can actually check out at sliceofparadise.info). They slowly realise that someone is trying to prevent them finding the hotel, sending them around in circles and playing increasingly threatening mind games.
Fans of the under-appreciated Ginger & Rosa (our ★★★½ review) will recognise Alice Englert who plays Lucy. Her other half is Iain De Caestecker (Filth, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”) playing Tom and Downton Abbey’s Allen Leech as Max, another victim of terror. They’re all very capable actors and so unlike many low-budget horror films, they never get in the way of the action with their hammy acting.
The film is set in non-descript Irish countryside but was actually filmed in Cornwall but you wouldn’t really know the difference as a lot of In Fear is just Lucy and Tom driving around, lost and scared in the dark. In this way it leaves you as an audience to slowly absorb their anxiety and fear. Whether you buy into the terror of being lost and alone, irregardless of the supposed protection of a car or not, is probably going to impact on how much you will take from the film. Personally speaking, by the time the climatic final scenes and cruel twist came on-screen I was bricking it.
It takes about fifteen minutes to settle into itself and does feel decidedly cheap a lot of the time, but it’s a sense that subsides once night falls and the atmosphere starts to build up. Lovering has admitted the film was a nightmare to film and edit and lots of takes just didn’t line up together, but there’s no glaring continuity holes or anything to prevent you enjoying it once you go in knowing it’s pretty low-budget and in need of a bit of creative licence.
The film played Sundance and Dublin’s recent IFI Horrorthon so has been on the radar for much of the year, but this gestating period has actually allowed it to gain a bit of word of mouth momentum, though you suspect that it won’t get that much attention from audiences until it shows up on streaming services next year. It’s proof if needed that sometimes there’s nothing more scary than a wonderfully simple horror concept that’s been well executed.
Released in Ireland on November 15th 2013
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