Over the years, four-wheeled vehicles have proved themselves as worthy settings for tense thrillers, Spielberg’s Duel (1971) and Tarantino’s Death Proof (2007) being two of the most successful examples. With In Fear (2013), Sherlock scribe Jeremy Lovering takes on the premise of a home invasion, confines the action into a car and documents events in real-time. As a result, it’s a darkly atmospheric journey to a destination that’s satisfyingly difficult to approximate. After a mysterious altercation with some locals in a country pub, young couple Tom (Iain De Caestecker) and Lucy (Beautiful Creatures’ Alice Englert) set off to spend the weekend at a music festival.
As a special surprise, Tom announces he has booked a romantic evening at a hotel. Following the directions of a village resident, the pair find themselves lost in a maze of winding country roads, none of which lead to their accommodation. As the darkness closes in, natural fears heighten and the two become terrorised by unseen forces in the woods. Convinced the locals are to blame for the torment, the two remain vigilant and intent on escaping from the terrifying dark labyrinth but is that where the fear exists or have they unknowingly welcomed it into the backseat? The scenario itself is certainly nothing new but Lovering’s screenplay successfully manages to manipulate the audience into the same predicament as the leads.
A vivid sense of claustrophobia is formed with extreme and invasive close ups of the actors adding to the discomfort of the journey. Gradually, visibility is reduced to a narrow path of light between the shadow of arching trees which intelligently ensures that both the characters and the viewer have no idea of what lies beyond the blind corners. Lovering delivers a confident film, that appears firmly rooted in the traditions of British horror, from the incestuous community of The Wicker Man (1973) to the dark mysteries of Kill List (2011), In Fear favours psychological torment over monstrous Jeepers Creepers-style cop-outs and it does this with great assurance.
Ultimately, this human horror exploits the primal fears of its audience to breaking point and manages to demonstrates this with some wonderful, fast-paced storytelling. Although the film borrows from every cliche in the book, it rewrites them with the added paranoia of keeping the audience in the dark until the very end. The plot itself is so heavily involving that when Englert’s Lucy screams “What do you want from me?” into thin air, it can be easily forgiven. The highly recommended In Fear is an achingly intimate thriller, that rewards an agonisingly white knuckled journey with a welcome rush of blood to the head.