In Fear takes a new couple on a night of terror in a grounded Irish scene
“If a man hurts an innocent person, the evil will fall back upon him and the fool will be destroyed.”
These are the lines scrawled on a bathroom wall in an Irish pub, where evil will definitively unleash in Jeremy Lovering’s new psychological thriller, In Fear.
Lucy sits on the toilet, reading the lines, she smirks and pens the words on the wall: “Or not.” This turns out to be a bad decision, as the audience soon finds out.
In Fear is a complex thriller bursting at the seams with mind games. The plot is simple: Lucy (Alice Englert) and Tom (Iain de Caestecker) are going to a festival in Ireland, when they stop off at a pub on the way. When Lucy returns from the washroom, Tom tells her about a slight mishap with the mates at the pub. A man accidentally spilled Tom’s drink, so Tom bought him another one. “I am a lover, not a fighter,” Tom says in his rich Irish brogue as he shrugs.
Things look innocent enough until Tom wryly suggests they find a hotel for the night instead of going on to the festival. He wants a romantic night with Lucy and he’s found just the place, a “slice of heaven,” a hotel tucked deep into the woods. The tone is set.
As the couple drive on and on, trying to find the hotel, tension rises. When they kiss, the lovers don’t even notice that the GPS loses its signal. The cell phones keep glitching and the hotel is impossible to find. The pair drive on and on, through a narrowing lane in a forest, until they find conflicting signs concerning the hotel’s location. Does it even exist? As Lucy says when she focuses on the map, “We’re not lost, we’re in a fucking maze.”
The scenery and camera-work do wonders in this film. With vast, flat landscapes and gray pastures, the Irish background makes you want to flee for your life. You feel surrounded by emptiness and desolation. Trees come alive at night time as Lucy begins to repeatedly see a masked man in the form of dancing branches. Tom assures her that she is hallucinating, but as the night progresses, things just get weirder and weirder. The camera zooms in at precise moments to linger on Lucy’s terrified face, on a gate closing, or on tires speeding up. The anticipation just keeps on building, and the viewer is pretty much ready to scream with Lucy when she feels someone (or something) is pulling at her hair.
The best part of the film lies in the psychological mind games. We learn that confidence and new love can quickly turn sour when in a bad situation. Tom and Lucy turn against each other at times, only to unite when faced with a string of dead rats, for example. Who can be trusted, and why? The innocent spilled drink at the pub becomes a burning hot issue. Are the pub mates out there? The viewer is tormented and teased until the very last minute of the film, forced to ponder the nature of humanity and the horror of the survival instinct.
The cast does a fine job of displaying genuine terror. Lovering needed a cast ready to take whatever would come since he insisted on having no script. Every actor had to sign up without knowing what would happen.
Viewers who like immediate action should probably shy away from this thriller, though. It takes a good 40 or so minutes before anything actually happens. The beauty in this production lies in the building up of tension and fear, not in any gory scenes. That said, since most of the action happens in a car in one single night, Lovering excels at moving the action along and keeping the facts at bay. You want to find out who is out there, at any cost.
You can catch In Fear starting on March 13 at Montreal’s Cineplex Odeon.