Jeremy Lovering’s directorial debut is a sharp UK thriller with a genuinely surprising ending. In Fear is the tale of a young couple lost in the remote Irish countryside, and then being terrorized over the course of one night by unidentified assailants. The genre flick has some of the usual plot twists and turns, with its basic narrative seen before in other films. It takes some thirty minutes before the real suspense begins, which might turn off some viewers. What it does do is create a real sense of terror that most people will be able to identify with. In Fear is carried by the fantastically believable chemistry between its two lead actors, Iain De Caestecker and Alice Englert.
Tom (Iain De Caestecker of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD) and Lucy (Alice Englert of Beautiful Creatures) are a new couple in the first stages of their relationship. Merely two weeks after meeting her, Tom talks Lucy into attending a music festival in the Irish countryside. He’s booked a room at a local hotel for the pair, well off the beaten path in a remote Irish setting. Attempting to follow the directions to the hotel, they quickly become lost in a maze of circular roads and misleading signs. It will try some of the audience’s patience but the first thirty minutes realistically detail the level of relationship the two share, that awkward stage in any new relationship as each person feels out the others personality. Both Iain and Alice are actors with real futures ahead of them in Hollywood; it’s rare that independent horror thrillers get talent of this caliber.
Tom and Lucy make for a completely believable couple as they drive around looking for a hotel that doesn’t seem to exist and trapped on a road that seemingly leads in a circle. Plot contrivances are introduced, removing the possibility of outside help via the cellphone or GPS. As it begins to get dark, Tom and Lucy start making questionable decisions as they start seeing people hiding in the bushes. The narrative is careful to lay the poor decision-making at the feet of their new relationship, though it gets tougher to suspend disbelief as the narrative proceeds. A few jump scares happen as they begin to venture outside their own vehicle and soon things start to get a lot more serious.
In Fear is set in a realistic world with human forces at work behind the terrorization of the young couple. One can see why this independent UK thriller was named an official selection at the Sundance Film Festival, the acting from its two leads are utterly naturalistic and help convey a real sense of helplessness. The superb performances paper over the minor concerns with In Fear, namely an opening act that drags a bit and a couple of twists most veteran genre watchers will likely guess. However, the ending is one of the more shocking ones in years and truly one of the more original ideas of the past decade.
In Fear possesses decent picture quality for an independent production coming out of the UK. At times it looks positively great, with a solid amount of crystal-clear resolution. There are limitations considering much of the film takes place in a light-challenged environment. Shot primarily on the Arri Alexa digital camera and a handful of lesser digital cameras, much of the film is set on a dark night in a countryside. The couple’s car lights often provide the only real source of illumination. Given that setting, the digital cinematography handles the darkness with moderate clarity and resolution.
Hints of macroblocking and ISO noise can be spotted but the 1080P presentation for the main feature retains solid amounts of definition. The early exterior shots in broad daylight are the epitome of pristine digital video, rendered in startlingly sharpness with ample amounts of razor-sharp detail.
Starz/Anchor Bay has likely created this transfer directly from the original 2K Digital Intermediate struck by StudioCanal, introducing no unnecessary processing such as DNR or edge enhancement. A hint of aliasing is visible but only very briefly. The main feature is properly presented in its expected 2.39:1 aspect ratio, though the cinematography is tight and loves to frequently employ close-ups with a minimal depth of field. The AVC video encode is run at fairly high rates, most of the visible noise is likely endemic to the original source material and not due to blatant compression artifacts.
Here is a brief excerpt of an interview by cinematographer David Katznelson on shooting In Fear:
“Most of the shoot was with the ARRI Alexa. The ARRI’s a beautiful camera, with excellent dynamic range and it provides about 70% of the shots. Combined with Cooke S4s viewers get a truly cinematic and very familiar look.
Visually, we don’t let the audience sit still. The look, feel and texture delivered by each camera / lens combination is subtly different. Matching the output of Canon 5D Mark IIs with Go Pros and Alexas is very difficult but we were not frightened by this dissonance. In fact, to a degree we played on it by limiting lighting to a few LEDs and using handheld torches to illuminate the near distance.
We were shooting with a minimal depth of field with Zeiss CompactPrimes attached to the Canon. And we used the Technicolor CineStyle Profile which delivered good colours that helped us get close to the Alexa look and allowed us to cut between the two cameras. However, maintaining focus, changing exposure settings and monitoring the shoot was a real challenge with the DSLR. The results, however, are very impressive.”
There is not a huge amount of directional sound coming from the surround channels as the soundstage is mostly front-loaded in this nice 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. The subdued musical score and some ambient cues do get spread to the entire 5.1 soundfield in a pleasant manner. The subwoofer does see light duty in a few scenes and there is a moderate amount of LFE action across the lower octaves. The dynamic range is quite large on this mix, forcing one to occasionally turn the volume up beyond reference levels if you want intelligible dialogue. The Foley work is outstanding and comes through in sparkling fidelity, you can palpably hear the crunch of boots or the car spinning its wheels in the mud.
In Fear lacks a big, showy display of audio elements but everything comes together in a score that is quite moody and supportive of the heightened suspense.
Optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles are provided in a white font that remain strictly within the feature’s scope aspect ratio.
Only a single featurette is included for the special features but it covers enough ground that I don’t think fans will get overly upset.
In Fear: Behind The Scenes (12:50 in HD) – The key cast and director share their thoughts in this interesting featurette. Lovering actually paints a good picture of what atmosphere he was trying to achieve and a few funny bits are revealed about the actors. Alice Englert had to audition by SKYPE and could not understand Iain’s accent in the beginning. There is also some actual footage from the set.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.