Iain De Caestecker (Agents of SHIELD) plays Tom who sweetly stumbles through inviting a girl he’s recently met, Lucy (Alice Englert, Beautiful Creatures) to a festival in the Irish country side. While travelling they stop at a pub, Tom gets in what he describes as an immature altercation and Lucy gets peeped on while she scribbles graffiti on the bathroom wall. But they leave in good spirits and Tom surprises her with a night in a hotel instead of camping out with friends for their two week anniversary.
In true modern horror movie form; the GPS loses signal, cell phones lose service -hell, there are no streetlights! The sign says one way and the map says another. Nature seems on the attack. Is it creepy locals, is it something supernatural, is it in their heads -an element of the psychological: adults from the city and grown up in modern times being without technology, without resources, isolated with only someone you just met? People have no navigation instincts anymore and taught to be distrustful of strangers. With these elements in play anxiety quickly ramps up. As the audience, we know these roads were also the scene of a horrific car wreck. As the couple gets more and more lost we’re left wondering how far back this goes, is there even a hotel at all?
Lucy: “We’re not lost. We’re in a fucking maze.”
How long can they drive in circles before running out of gas?
35 minutes in, all the while wondering if the creeps are inside or outside the car. If it’s murderous hicks or something paranormal. Is it a result of Tom’s altercation at the pub or related to Lucy? Should they be afraid, or are their eyes playing tricks on them? By the 45 minute mark: they find they aren’t the first people this has happened to, but it’s still unclear what that really means ultimately. Who can they trust? Judgement becomes impaired, tensions run high, anxiety makes for impulsive choices.
The atmosphere is an intimate setting with two characters we know little about, who know little about each other, who are hopelessly lost on a gloomy, dismal path. It’s intense and oddly captivating. I’ve always fancied myself a traveller, and lost traveller horror movies always add a level of nail biting anxiety. In everyday life, the GPS tells you where to go, the street signs can be trusted and a gas station is always near by -travelling in general takes away that assuredness. In Fear brings in that anxiety, as well as fear of the unknown: fear of what is hidden in the darkness, around the corner and in the heads and hearts of your fellow humans. All with a modest cast of 3.
The film is stocked with alpha-male posturing, head wounds and misdirection. When the characters lash out in violence it’s impossible not to sympathize while still wondering if they are losing themselves while they are lost on their travels. It’s understatedly atmospheric with elements of High Tension (2003), Wrong Turn (2003) and the Strangers (2008) but make no mistake, it is a movie all its own. Watch with the bloke or gal you just started dating to give them the creeps. In select theaters tomorrow (March 7th) and on Blu-Ray and DVD March 11th. See it on the big screen if you can.
The Blu-Ray includes behind the scenes footage including casting tidbits including the actors awkward auditioning process. And how writer/director Jeremy Lovering created an element of distrust. Knowing what went in to it added an extra depth as well, the actors no script, all method acting. I’ve never heard of that happening before and it seems absurd but was wonderously executed. This is Lovering’s first feature, but he notably directed the season 3 premiere of Sherlock “The Empty Hearse”.
The film is certainly the best in horror so far this year, not that there’s much to choose from. There was some suspension of disbelief involved, but at it’s core this film is majorly tense, claustrophobic and bitingly shows two everyday characters pushed to their limits, making for interesting commentary on human condition. 4 out of 5 for sure. That’s an 8 out of 10 for those of you who are bad at math. Check out the trailer here: