IN FEAR. This raw, low-budget thriller is a gem

The film’s title is simple and catchy, perfectly capturing the essence of the story.

Jakub Piwoński

31 December 2023

Certainly, you are likely familiar with the feeling accompanying us in the evening in the forest. Regardless of how beautiful the natural surroundings may be, after a certain hour, the forest ceases to be a place where we feel safe. An uneasiness permeates the atmosphere, causing us to nervously glance behind, confusing the rustle of leaves with whispers, and snapping branches with the footsteps of an imagined figure. At that moment, we are helpless and weak because engulfed in fear, we cannot think rationally. Yet, with every passing minute, it gets darker, and home is still so far away…

This fear is eagerly exploited by creators of various thrillers to tell another story of individuals lost in the forest, unable to cope with the threat that awaits them. The forest and its mystery then become the starting point for depicting a sense of confusion.

In the thriller “In Fear,” the forest becomes a trap without an exit for the protagonists. Driving through its paths, they suddenly realize that they are going in circles. “We haven’t lost our way; we are in a damn maze,” says the girl at a certain point in the film to her companion in misfortune. Observing the actions of the two characters, desperately trying to reach their destination, it is hard not to agree with such a blunt assessment of their situation. Someone must have placed them in this maze, and surely did so for a reason. To understand the nature of the progressing danger, the characters will have to recall what happened in the nearby pub where they briefly stayed before the expedition… Regardless of how well we can predict the ending of such a plot, in this case, it is far from unequivocal and causes a considerable amount of emotional distress.

“In Fear” is a British low-budget production directed by Jeremy Lovering—an independent creator whose most significant previous works come from the television realm. Despite his limited film experience, it did not prevent him from skillfully intriguing and shaking the audience with his feature film debut. The film premiered at the Sundance Festival, which has accustomed us to promoting remarkable gems. “In Fear” is undoubtedly one of them. The film was well-received by both the audience and critics, and I gladly join in the applause. It’s just a shame that local distributors remained blind to the positive reception of a low-budget film. However, the fact that we couldn’t watch “In Fear” in Poland is undoubtedly also related to the limited number of copies typically released for such films (a similar story happened with, for example, “V/H/S”).

The raw composition of the film contributes to stimulating the thrill of emotions. Horror cinema, as you may have noticed, operates by slightly different rules. Sometimes, the lower the production cost of a horror film, the more convincingly it scares. It sounds paradoxical, but it has its justification—formal minimalism is valued in contemporary horror film. However, it is essential to have directorial reliability that, without disturbing our attention, skillfully creates and maintains tension. And that works flawlessly in “In Fear.” It is also significant that logical aspects have been properly worked out, which always aids in the correct perception of the film, especially when it is based on a simple plot concept that should be well-developed in this regard. The satisfaction of the viewing experience is sealed with intelligent references to genre classics—the most important being the reference to “The Hitcher,” whose main motif has been interestingly refreshed in “In Fear.”

The film’s title is simple and catchy, perfectly capturing the essence of the story we have the pleasure of experiencing during the screening. The means of expression may sometimes be modest, and the faces we see on the big screen may tell us nothing because we see them for the first time. However, to feel an all-encompassing fear, it is enough to skillfully and sensitively play the sounds on those strings that evoke images of fear experienced many times before. The emerging melody may sound familiar and deceptively resemble something we have already heard. However, this does not hinder us from listening to it again deeply.

Jakub Piwoński

Jakub Piwoński

Cultural expert, passionate about popular culture, in particular films, series, computer games and comics. He likes to fly away to unknown, fantastic regions, thanks to his fascination with science fiction. Professionally, however, he looks back more often, thanks to his work as a museum promotion specialist, investigating the mysteries of the beginnings of cinematography. His favorite film is "The Matrix", because it combines two areas close to his heart - religion and martial arts.

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