IN FEAR (2013)
Starring Iain De Caestecker, Alice Englert and Allen Leech.
Screenplay by Jeremy Lovering.
Directed by Jeremy Lovering.
Distributed by Anchor Bay Films. 85 minutes. Rated R.
If you ever wondered what it would be like to have an Irish approximation of one of the early Wes Craven films (Last House on the Right, The Hills Have Eyes) with a whole heck of a lot less blood, In Fear is probably as close as you are going to get.
Writer/director Jeremy Lovering actually does a masterful job of ratcheting up the suspense over the first 45 minutes or so, before his film completely gets away from him.
In Fear is an odd contradiction in many ways – a horror film and yet there is only one corpse shown (though it is strongly implied that at least one other character dies as well). Which, I suppose, is a pretty heavy body count when you consider only three characters are actually physically seen on screen during the film’s 85 minute running time, though we do see a truckful of locals mooning the couple and there would seem to be lots of odd people hovering in the shadows and the darkness and peeking through peep holes.
In college, a writing professor told me that the hardest stories to tell are ones that are limited to two or three people, because you can never totally get away from the situation. You have to keep focused on specific people and places, you can’t hide or distract with other situations.
For the great majority of the running time, In Fear is completely focused on two characters. Tom (Iain De Caestecker) and Lucy (Alice Englert) had met a couple of weeks earlier in a bar and he somehow (offscreen) talked her into going away with him to the backwoods of Ireland for a music festival, camping and partying with friends.
In Fear starts off seeming like a normal first date, as they drive around the countryside getting to know each other, having a couple of pints in a local pub and just chatting. However, this first date goes wrong quickly enough. In a rather transparent ruse to get laid, Tom admits to Lucy that the festival doesn’t start until the next night and he has booked them for the night into a beautiful hotel he found on the internet, a place called The Kilairney House.
Lucy has her doubts, but eventually agrees to go with him.
Problem is, he has no idea where this hotel is. He is supposed to meet an employee from the hotel at the pub to follow him to the hotel. When the guy in the hotel Jeep finally shows up, he doesn’t stop to introduce himself, just motions for them to follow him.
They do, and he eventually leads them to a chained up gate with the name of the hotel on it, leading to a continuation of country road that stretches out ahead of them.
Having apparently never seen a horror film, Max gets out and breaks the fence chain open, figuring that the Kilairney House must have some really tight security measures.
Hmm, didn't Max check Yelp or Zagat?
They are led into this densely foliated patch of land in which cell phones and GPS apparently do not work. (Though later in the film, for some reason the GPS is back on line). The couple follows signs supposedly leading to the hotel, but eventually leading them in circles around the rain-soaked area. Then Lucy starts noticing people lurking in the shadows out of the side of her eye.
As they drive deeper into the night, sniping at each other, searching the woods, someone is leaving them odd clues – a map, dropping some of her clothes in the middle of the road, a line of dead birds across the road.
The film eventually gets away from Lovering when the couple runs down a man in the woods. The man is a local named Max, who is alive, but bleeding and insists that he was also being tortured by the same guys from the pub who seem to be after the couple. But is he really? And if not, who is he and what does he want?
We never know why exactly the person is going to such great extremes to terrorize the couple. The only explanation at all given is that Tom spilled someone's drink at a local pub, but it can't be just that, can it? The film hints that there is more to the story than that, but we never find out what it was, or even if there really was more. And a later reveal suggests it may have been as random as a Google search, which makes everything even more hard to believe.
We don't even learn if the supposed bad guy is really trying to kill them. At one point he leaves a full gas can in the car when they hit empty. Later it appears that he had his fun and was content to walk away until Max ups the ante.
By then, the suspenseful hold that Lovering had over the audience has dissipated and the film just shudders from one anticlimactic reveal to another. Eventually In Fear is one of those films in which when the audience finally figures out all that was happening, they end up wishing that they still did not know.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2014 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: March 9, 2014.