For cinephiles, much like myself, I find that horror is trickier to dissect in the same manner one would a film in other genres. Reason being that no matter how impressive and substantial, horror films never seem to carry as much reverence in the art of film as a whole. For example, come award season, horror flicks aren’t exactly looked upon with much value and very rarely garner a nomination, let alone a victory. Why?
I never like to toss myself in the minority, but I can’t help it this time. Personally, horror is one of, if not the genre of choice, and I’m not alone. I’ve seen the very best of what the genre has to offer from the ultra disturbing, to the unbearably gory and so on. Yet, people still can’t shake this notion that somehow horror is a notch below cinema’s elite. It’s as if we’ve been brainwashed to believe that what the horror genre has to offer isn’t worthy of our time and acclaim. How many times have you heard the lie that the horror genre is dying? This mindset needs to change amongst us cinephiles. Horror creates fear, one of the most crucial and unique emotions that affects the human body mentally and physically, unlike any other feeling. The point of cinema is to provoke reaction, isn’t it? So how can you deny yourself that experience? Begin your cinematic progression, your film evolution here, with “In Fear.”
Director Jeremy Lovering has set the record straight. His latest film’s title is derived from the story and the premise on which it was based, as if after watching this cinematic thesis unfold left any confusion. This dive into horror isn’t exactly conventional. You know, a series of events that progress to a distressing crest, climax, and conclude. No, there is something theoretic, scientific, albeit madly, about this picture. Something that Lovering put best when he summarized that his latest flick wasn’t a typical outing into terror, rather, “an experiment in fear.” And although “In Fear” is quite terrifying, it isn’t solely driven by the fear it is able to provoke. It is a film that explores the experience of fear itself and what effect it has on the human body, both mentally and physically. And more importantly, to what extent is the damage irreversible…
“There’s nothing to fear, but fear itself.” A famous quote used by many I’m sure you’ve heard somewhere before. Maybe a tad cliche, especially when discussing the horror genre, but that doesn’t make it any less true. This notion is excavated and examined exhaustively throughout “In Fear,” almost scholar-like.
This theory is fairly simple to understand. Essentially, what’s truly frightening about fear is what the emotion allow’s ourselves to create. When terrified, it’s as if we access a part of our brain we don’t normally tend to, where we keep all the things we irrevocably dread. It’s this miraculously unnerving ability to turn common things like shadows, rain, tree branches into monstrosities not of this world with sinister motivations. It’s the darkest side of our imagination, a wonder of life who’s existence we despise to the marrow.
Of course however, no matter how talented we may be at transforming bland simplicity into complex apparitions of terror, we are never really in danger, it’s all just a concoction in our brain, a phantom that never actually existed. Kind of anti-climactic, isn’t it? That being said however, with “In Fear” Lovering presents and depicts a rather intriguing idea, an uncomfortable thought. He states that the only thing we have to fear is those without any. Someone who is removed from fear and danger, someone who’s life isn’t of value to them self. This then allows this being without fear to become an external force, like gravity. When you distinguish and rid yourself of fear, you gain control over every other life form. Simply, you have fear and it doesn’t, you have everything to lose and it doesn’t. Creepy, isn’t it?
Lovering captures the immensity of “In Fear’s” theory flawlessly, which is all the more remarkable considering that the entirety of the film takes place within a car. Yet, as impressive as this philosophical intelligence is, what’s even more astounding is the fact that “In Fear” was captured literally void of a script. All the cast and crew had to go on was a premise, nothing more. Looking back on the scale of what they created with how little they begun with is worth the watch alone. Now, aside from the theoretical premise, the genuine ambiguity of the dialogue and script, keep an eye out for “In Fear’s” use of atmosphere to create the foundation of terror. Hauntingly beautiful visuals of baron fields, harsh weather, and dreary overgrowth form this Earthy, elemental fright that’s inescapable. Combined with a light, ominous score, the fright is almost unbearable.
Without scripted structure and dialogue, Lovering was hoping to achieve an authentic portrayal of fear, something the cast, comprised of Iain De Caestecker, Alice Englert, and Allen Leech, would have to convey naturally. Englert and Caestecker portray the victims of Leech’s torment, a young couple on their first getaway. Leech is the highlight of the film, performance wise. His sadistic, unmotivated, sociopathic take on a serial murderer is bone-chilling. One of the better performances I’ve seen in a horror film in a good, long while. As for Englert and Caestecker, what can one say? The level of genuine fear they reach in their portrayals is bewildering. Their performances really drive the film forward. Honestly, for parts of this flick, you’ll feel as if you’re watching a snuff film, that’s how realistic the performances are.
Although undoubtedly not for everyone, “In Fear” is a terrific showcase of horror done right.
In Fear: 8.5 out of 10