There are some horror films that attempt to give us a realistic fright fest, with believable characters and a situation that anyone could find themselves in, then there are films like “In Fear,” where logic takes a backseat to incompetency and plotholes. Using only three characters, writer/director Jeremy Lovering presents the story of Tom (Iain De Caestecker) and Lucy (Alice Englert), a young man and woman who are on their way to a music festival. After a stop at a pub, Tom tells Lucy that he’s booked a room at a motel that’s supposed to be rather lovely. Even though the two aren’t really a couple, she reluctantly agrees, and soon the two are following their guide car to the motel’s secluded location. Their guide brings them to the entrance of a maze of roads that will supposedly take them to their destination, but after following the signs for some time, they find themselves going in circles. As night falls, frightening things begin to happen, including the mysterious appearance of a man in a white mask who tries to grab Lucy from the car. The two eventually (literally) run into another victim, Max (Allen Leech), of whoever is behind these strange happenings, someone who supposedly knows how to get out of the maze they’re stuck in. However, it quickly becomes clear that Max may not be exactly who he claims to be.
Obviously Lovering was going for something along the lines of “The Blair Witch Project” meets “The Strangers,” but unfortunately his whole idea comes crashing down because of what I mentioned right up front: incompetent characters who simply aren’t believable. Having characters dumber than rocks has become something of a standard horror staple, but as to why is anyone’s guess. Perhaps if you’re aiming for a more comedic approach, it would be an asset, but if you’re trying to make a serious horror film, it does nothing but take the audience out of the story every time they make a dumb decision. A few examples from “In Fear” include the couple continuing to follow the signs throughout the film even when they clearly aren’t leading them anywhere, stopping to check on a complete stranger who was standing in the middle of the road seconds after Lucy was attacked, not figuring out Max’s true identity within the first few minutes, and Tom’s complete ineptitude during a fight later on in the film. Supposedly the actors weren’t working from a script, and perhaps that was the problem. If Lovering had bothered to come up with an actual screenplay, perhaps he would have seen the numerous issues plaguing his little film.
Going back to the films he was trying to emulate, having a “Blair Witch”-like scenario certainly wasn’t doing him any favors. As we clearly saw in that film, having people wander around in circles trying to find their way out makes for a pretty dull experience. “The Strangers” was a better film to aspire to given that it was able to present a pretty good thrillride, but the characters there were at least believable and didn’t show their stupidity every few minutes. “In Fear” could have worked as a contained horror flick, but when you’re sitting there shaking your head over and over at the characters’ inexplicable actions, there’s very little chance that you’re going to sympathize with them or get engaged in their plight. Having such characters may work for some horror films (“Friday the 13th”), but here they’re simply detrimental to the effect that Lovering was going for, leading to an attempt at a serious thriller that is just laughable.
“In Fear” is presented in a 2.35:1, 1080p transfer of varying quality. Early on, the picture is decently sharp and clear, but when the film shifts to a night setting, the direction, cinematography, and lighting are rather poor, making it difficult to tell if it remains that way for the last hour or so. The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio is a little on the soft side, but after making the necessary adjustments, it comes through loud and clear. Overall, the experience is tolerable, but it leaves you wishing that more could have been done for the latter part of the film.
In Fear: Behind the Scenes: This is a decent 12-minute behind the scenes featurette that features interviews with the cast and crew discussing how they went about making the film. The most interesting parts of it have Lovering explaining his concept behind the film and the circumstances under which it was made (no script, improv, etc.). Worth watching if you’re looking to learn more.
From the questionable quality of the production to the uninspired film itself, it should be abundantly clear by now that this is not a recommendable release. Lovering may have had intriguing ideas about evil and violence, but he just didn’t know how to display them effectively, especially in a film where the audience is too busy questioning every move the characters make. Hopefully he’ll learn that he needs to look closer at their motivations to see that they make sense. That way he has a much better chance of getting us hooked on the thrills he so desperately wanted to achieve, but was unable to deliver. This being his first theatrical film, it’s best he learns this now, or else his next attempt could end up the exact same way, and then we really would be going round in circles just like Tom and Lucy.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
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