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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

IN FEAR -- Blu-ray review by porfle

"Please don't be like EDEN LAKE...please don't be like EDEN LAKE..."  This was what I kept chanting to myself as Tom and Lucy, the young couple in the 2013 horror-suspense thriller IN FEAR, got themselves mired deeper and deeper into a metaphorical morass of confusion and dread.

Thank goodness this story didn't plumb the depths of profoundly depression-inducing nightmare territory as did the exercise in sheer suicidal grief that is EDEN LAKE.  But for awhile there, as the young lovers' predicament continued to escalate, I was preparing myself for the worst.

Having come to Ireland together to attend a festival with friends, Tom (Iain De Caestecker, "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.") and Lucy (Alice Englert, BEAUTIFUL CREATURES)  first decide to celebrate their two-week anniversary as a couple by stealing away to a (very) secluded hotel Tom found on the internet. 

But as they drive deeper into the woods along narrow dirt roads, past forbidding-looking shacks with "Keep Out" signs, following direction signs to the hotel which seem to keep changing and causing them to wander around in circles, it gradually dawns on them (and us) that something is very wrong.

All we know is that something happened inside the pub they visited before setting off on their journey, which involved a group of rowdy locals whom Tom may have somehow offended.  But he isn't talking about what happened.  And now it looks as though those unbalanced individuals may be behind what's going on.  Just how mad did Tom make them, and how far will they go to get back at him and his girlfriend?  Or are they being stalked and menaced by someone else entirely? 

The scenario brings to mind all manner of similar ones from the past,, chief among them being THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (even places like Ireland have their dangerous backwoods yokels).  As the suspense becomes more and more gripping, it appears we'll have to endure some  painfully tense situations in order to find out how far in that direction this particular film is willing to take us. 

Before that, though, IN FEAR has already got us firmly in its grip, which keeps tightening as Tom and Lucy's initial good spirits become as waterlogged as the muddy roads they're traveling on, their fears darkening like the forbidding forests that close in more and more as minutes tick away.  Running lower on gas with every lost mile, their hopes of finding the hotel long dashed, their main concern finally becomes one of survival itself.

Little by little they encounter definite signs that there's someone else out there with them as their unseen stalkers make their eerie presence known.  Finally, the attacks become terrifyingly direct as a series of jump scares have us gasping in shock and lurching around in our seats.

IN FEAR is Jeremy Lovering's first credit as a feature director but you wouldn't know it by looking at this lush film which is so imaginatively, deliberately conceived and shot that much of it boasts the production values of an avant-garde car commercial.  Richly moody photography and an atmospheric New-Agey score immerse us in a growing sense of helpless dread while lending the film a real upper-class veneer, as do the excellent performances by the leads.

This eventually comes to include a third character, Max (Allen Leech, "Downton Abbey", "Rome"), whom Tom runs down with his car while fleeing in panic down a lonely road.  Max is a wild card--is he truly another potential victim running from the bad guys, or is he one of them? 

Either way, having him bleeding all over the back seat, in addition to giving Tom directions which still seem to lead nowhere, definitely adds to Tom and Lucy's paralyzingly immediate concerns.  And the stakes get even higher when they're forced to make some tough and ultimately heartrending decisions that could directly effect each other in very negative ways.

The Blu-ray from Anchor Bay is in 2.35:1 widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  The sole extra is a behind-the-scenes featurette.

What happens to Tom and Lucy is the sort of situation that anyone can identify with, in which you suddenly and unknowingly cross a boundary between real life and the world of waking nightmares.  IN FEAR builds and builds, until the tension is almost sickening.  The fact that it doesn't pay off as strongly as I'd hoped--or, with EDEN LAKE in mind, as I'd dreaded--matters little when taking into consideration just how well-made and effective this film is. 

Buy it at


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