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'In Fear' review: A white knuckled letdown

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In Fear

Rating:
Star2
Star
Star
Star
Star

"In Fear" began playing in Houston, TX starting today, March 7 at the AMC Studio 30 movie theater.

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On their two week anniversary, Tom (Iain De Caestecker) invites his girlfriend Lucy (Alice Englert) to a festival along with a group of friends, but at the last minute Tom presents a hotel getaway in the middle of the country as a romantic gesture to which Lucy eventually agrees to. Unfortunately for Tom and Lucy, they're unable to locate their hotel. They follow signs that lead them in circles and the road they thought they drove in on just keeps leading them back to the same house with the same, "Keep out," sign by the driveway. Lost, scared, and at their wits end, Tom and Lucy begin to suspect foul play but who would do such a thing and for what purpose is beyond comprehension.

"In Fear" immediately introduces its audience to the fact that Tom and Lucy are about to be screwed no matter what they do. They lose their GPS signal, they decide to stay in the middle of nowhere, they're practically lead down their own downward spiral, and the finishing blow is losing their cell phone reception. You can see and feel the common threads of similar films in "In Fear" and yet it's still able to make its mark as far as atmosphere goes. The woods are a creepy place, especially at night, and "In Fear" capitalizes on that. The majority of the film takes place in Tom's car much like most of "Saw" took place in that one bathroom more than anything else. Not knowing what's out there is what causes the most tension; the rustling of leaves right before darkness hits, Lucy's hair being pulled, and Tom's car alarm going off for seemingly no reason. Tom and Lucy find themselves weaving down these winding and disorienting country roads while there is this impending sense of unknown perfectly established in the first half hour of the film, but naturally the film falls apart when it attempts to reveal its secluded horror.

The film begins to wobble around the time tree branches begin scratching the car as Tom takes one too many swigs of alcohol while driving. A tree almost falls on them and a scarecrow spooks Lucy before someone in a mask lurks in the shadows while watching Tom urinate. You expect to get some answers by the time Max (Allen Leech) is introduced, but the character only makes things more confusing. It's very obvious where the Max character is going but his actions are just baffling, especially the entire fumbling around in the mud scene. You're given a face to who is causing everything, but nothing is ever really explained. It's as if it all comes back to the spilled drink at the pub at the beginning of the film. Did the other guy spill it? Did Tom spill it? Who bought who a round of drinks to keep the peace? The point of the matter is you don't really care.

There are traces of films such as "The Hitcher," "House of 1000 Corpses," "Joy Ride," and "Hush" wrapped up in the DNA of "In Fear," but unfortunately that DNA is more of a clone than its own identity. There's no story and no purpose, so naturally it doesn't feel very gratifying. The ending leaves you on the verge of being infuriated since it's basically a one-sided game of cat and mouse with the cat obviously having the upper hand and the mouse not having any sort of chance whatsoever. "In Fear" is a promising thriller early on, but buckles under the tension it creates and leaves the viewer in a haze.

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