Retro Review: IN FEAR (2014){0}

A wise man (OK fine, it was me) once said that, as far as indie horror films are concerned, originality is frequently overrated. The seasoned genre expert has seen dozens of zombie films, haunted house horrors, and home invasion thrillers by now, and what separates the quality from the crap is not originality. It’s presentation. Of course it’s important to add at least a few new wrinkles if you’re going to tell a familiar tale, and the nifty little British import called In Fear manages to pull off the feat with crisp efficiency. 

There are several movies you could mention in describing In Fear. It starts off like 60% of the indie horror films you’ve seen before (a young couple, in a car, on a trip to the woods for a music festival) but it’s most reminiscent of 2003’s Dead End. After a deftly delivered batch of simple but effective character development, we get into a section involving a sinister hitchhiker — which logically reminds one of films like The Hitcher (1985) — and then the third act of In Fear is a legitimately interesting (and frequently sort of novel) combination of horror, psychological thriller, and a particularly creepy episode of The Twilight Zone.

Basically, for a film that comes bearing such a simple and well-traveled plot, In Fear does manage to wring some solid tension and disconcerting jolts from its familiar trappings, and it’s thanks mainly to writer/director Jeremy Lovering’s intention to make Tom and Lucy’s unhappy misadventure feel tense, gloomy, and gradually suspenseful. Most of In Fear is shot from inside of an automobile, but the director and DP David Katznelson take care to keep the visual presentation interesting.

How much you actually like In Fear will probably come down to how much you care for the lead couple. Fortunately, Alice Englert (Beautiful Creatures) and Iain De Castecker (Agents of SHIELD) are both charming in a “normal Joe/Jane” fashion. Allen Leach (Grand Piano), as a mysterious but plainly insidious hitchhiker, adds a nice dash of energy just when the flick needs it, and when the film feels like two familiar movies mashed together, Lovering delivers a third act that actually has some compelling ideas about, well, fear. It’s right there in the title.

Long story short: if you’ve ever been lost at night on a road you’ve never seen before, you’ll probably get a kick out of In Fear. It’s a simple story that’s very similar to other ones you could probably rattle off like a huge nerd, but as long as it’s an old story that’s well-retold, everybody wins. (Except the people in this movie, that is.)