In Fear: Sundance Review

In Fear

United Kingdom (Directed and story by: Jeremy Lovering)

Trapped in a maze of country roads with only their vehicle for protection, Tom and Lucy are terrorized by an unseen tormentor exploiting their worst fears. Eventually they realize they've let the evil in – it’s sitting in their car. Cast: Alice Englert, Iain De Caestecker, Allen Leech.

Less is more for Irish thriller transpiring in and around a single car.

Director-writer Jeremy Lovering throws away the script for his tense, backwoods-set debut starring Alice Englert and Iain De Caestecker.

PARK CITY -- A compact, effective thriller set in way-rural Ireland, Jeremy Lovering's In Fear makes the most of three actors, a car and a network of narrow roads winding through the woods. Literal-minded viewers might have trouble with a hard-to-rationalize ending, but horror fans in general should embrace its stripped-down scares.

Iain De Caestecker plays Tom, a lad bold enough to invite Lucy (Alice Englert) on a music-festival road trip after only one flirty conversation in a bar. Naughtier still, he has secretly booked a room at an out-of-the-way inn he found online, hoping to get to know Lucy better before meeting friends at the fest.

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He gets lost after leaving the main road, though, following signs for the inn that keep leading back to places he swears he's seen before. While Lucy grows more frustrated and he fails to find either the inn or the road he took into this mess, it becomes clear Tom won't be getting lucky tonight. He might not even make it out of the woods.

Lovering, who says the premise was inspired by his own experience, refused to show his cast a screenplay, or even to let them know if they would live or die once the couple's navigation problems are complicated by sightings of mask-wearing strangers and suspicious mishaps. That uncertainty fuels tense improv within the car, a mood that worsens with the arrival of Max -- a local who might be another victim of the film's unseen creeps -- or might be one of them.

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Lovering's camera setups turn an already tight car into an increasingly claustrophobic setting, and when the action spills outside -- yes, even after night falls, Tom and Lucy find reasons to step out of the car's relative safety -- we're convinced the film's psychological tension will give way to slasher mayhem. What actually happens is a little hard to explain but certainly will have viewers reading plenty of online reviews before booking their next romantic getaway.

Production company: Big Talk Pictures
Cast: Iain De Caestecker, Alice Englert, Allen Leech
Director-screenwriter: Jeremy Lovering
Producers: Nira Park, James Biddle
Executive producers: Matthew Justice, Jenny Borgars, Danny Perkins, Katherine Butler
Director of photography: David Katznelson
Production designer: Jeff Sherriff
Music: Roly Porter, Daniel Pemberton
Costume designer: Rosa Dias
Editor: Jonathan Amos
Sales: Studiocanal
No rating, 84 minutes