Sometimes the scariest things are the things you don’t see (or only imagine you do). Stare out into a thick wood for long enough, and you’re bound to see something peek out from the brush, or catch a fleeting glimpse of a shadowy figure racing between the trees. Our minds play the most glorious tricks on us, and our imaginations can make an otherwise humdrum experience absolutely terrifying. For me, nowhere is this truer than in film, where suggestion and misdirection can often be far more horrific than buckets of blood and obnoxious musical stabs.
In Fear, the first feature from TV vet Jeremy Lovering, employs this sort of implied horror to great effect for much of its running time, introducing us to Tom (Iain De Caestecker) and Lucy (Alice Englert) – a young couple who are en route to a music festival where they’re to meet up with their friends. After a stop in a somewhat remote local pub, Tom springs a surprise on Lucy, telling her that he’s booked a room at a nearby hotel, but Lucy, rightfully suspect of Tom seeing as how the pair have only known each other for a couple of weeks, takes a bit of convincing. Ultimately, she agrees to Tom’s plan, and the two follow a “guide” out into the wilds of rural Ireland to what the internet promises is one of the emerald isle’s most luxurious holiday escapes. Whilst on the long ride, Lucy tells Tom of a weird experience she had back at the pub, and Tom counters with a story of his own involving a run-in with some locals that, judging from his demeanor, Lucy suspects isn’t the whole truth.
The couple is eventually led to a gated entrance where their guide hastily leaves them, and left to find their way through what seems like a labyrinth of tight forest roads, following a seemingly never ending amount of signs pointing to their destination. The pair laughs it off when they find themselves back where they started from, but, as it becomes apparent that they are hopelessly lost, Tom tries to maintain a brave façade while Lucy begins to panic, at first “seeing things” in the encroaching forest, but, ultimately, seeing something very real. Soon the couple realizes that they’re trapped in a maze fashioned by a very real madman who is watching their every move, and waiting for just the right time to make his intentions known.
For the first forty minutes or so, In Fear embraces a less-is-more concept that puts the viewer in a constant state of unease that grows in pace with that of the film’s protagonists. The entire first act of the film consists of some very genuine sounding improvised banter between the two leads who interact much like a new couple would, with the occasional uncomfortable silence, a few nervous jokes, and a sense that the two probably aren’t exactly destined for the alter anytime soon. The conversation gets a bit more bleak as the barren moors and foreboding overcast skies hint at what lay ahead, until, finally, our heroes are well-ensconced in the suffocating forest maze, made all the more claustrophobic thanks to Lovering’s use of extreme close-ups. It’s during this part of the film that In Fear works best, employing those aforementioned implied scares to great effect. Sadly, the film’s final act introduces a third character whose presence sucks much of the mystery out of the proceedings, leading up to a somewhat predictable finale that, while admittedly cool, may chafe some viewers as it leaves a few key questions unanswered. Personally, I actually liked the ambiguity of the film’s conclusion, but, then again, I also liked the way they ended The Sopranos so your mileage may vary.
In Fear comes to Blu-ray via Anchor Bay/Starz, and is presented in a solid 2.35:1 transfer. The image is crisp and detailed, with a somewhat desaturated palette that lends the proceedings a seasick-green cast on occasion, but, overall, the image is pleasing. The accompanying Dolby True HD 5.1 track is immersive and skillfully mixed, with environmental effects such as wind and rain giving the surrounds a decent workout.
Bonus features include a lengthy behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film, but sadly lacks both the commentary track and isolated score of the StudioCanal Region B release.
In Fear is a well-made little shocker with a solid cast, deft direction, and an intriguing premise that’s only slightly compromised by a third act reveal that, in my opinion, should have been left to the imagination. Still, this is a surprisingly effective thriller that’s equal parts Wolf Creek and Straw Dogs, with relatable characters, a menacing villain, and some genuinely scary moments that make this one worth checking out.