Sunday, December 7, 2014

Film Review: In Fear (2013)

In Fear (Review)
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...too busy focusing on eyes and the environment to entertain."

During a trip to a secluded hotel, new couple Tom (Iain De Caestecker) and Lucy (Alice Englert) are tormented by an unknown assailant.

The story starts in a pub where Tom convinces Lucy to take a detour to a secluded hotel during their trip to a music festival. So, the pair agree to stay at the hotel, but end up getting lost in a maze-like forest. The couple travel in circles and bicker as they realize they are not alone. That's practically all you need to know about the story, because that's practically everything in the story. Oh, the ending was very disappointing - it's hard to even call it an ending, more like the writer got lazy and threw anything together.

The simple plot works for and against the film. On one hand, its easy to get into. On the other hand, it's so simple, it comes off as uneventful. The story and its slow-burn pace suffer more from the arthouse in the film, though. These attempts at arthouse ultimately dilute the horror and tension. They also unnecessarily bloat the already short runtime. In fact, almost every other scene in this film is a close-up to a character's face or eye, or a long shot of the settings. Don't get me wrong, some of these scenes help in building the ominous mood, but they're more often unnecessary and boring. This would've been a much better film without the "artsy" approach, it would've been a much shorter film, too. My final complaint: these characters weren't very bright, they were oblivious to the obvious and often had me screaming at the television. (why would you do that!)

I didn't absolutely hate the film, though. When it works, it really works. There are some very tense and suspenseful scenes here -- almost dreadfully suspenseful. The slow-burn pace is excellent when it works, despite it suffering from the arthouse-effect. The concept, albeit done many times before, is also effective. Getting lost in the woods doesn't feel as cliché this time around. Also, the sense of paranoia the film occasionally builds is great. These positives, however, aren't enough to fully redeem In Fear from its glaring flaws.

The acting is great from this small cast. Iain De Caestecker, who plays the typical smart-alec, does well in the role. Alice Englert also does very well, hits the mark without overacting (most of the time). Despite my dislike for the film's arthouse approach, I thought the film looked great, the cinematography shines. I remember some of the music, but most of it was forgettable. Director Jeremy Lovering does well in building up suspense through minimalism, but his direction suffers from purposeless arthouse shots. Lovering's writing, on the other hand, is mostly great, but suffers from a lazy ending.

Overall, In Fear is a film I loved and hated. At times, it's very effective and frightening. During other times, it's too busy focusing on eyes and the environment to entertain. Don't get me wrong, I love arthouse films (Kim Ki-duk is one of my favorite directors), but the style is more than often unnecessary. Most of these closeups serve no purpose but to bloat the short runtime. Despite its short runtime, this film probably would have been better without the arthouse, consequently cutting at least a third of the film. Although I sit in the middle, most audiences will either love or hate this film.

Score: 5/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood, some partial nudity.

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