Nothing is quite so exciting a movie experience as the claustrophobic thriller. Director Jeremy Lovering provides that closed in feeling inside of a compact car, roaming lost around the isolated byways of Ireland, in his tightly wound film In Fear.
Tom (Iain De Caestecker) is a somewhat reserved young man, who nevertheless manages to ask Lucy (Alice Englert), the girl he's sweet on, to travel with him to a music festival in Ireland. After a quick stop at a pub, he surprises her with the news that he's booked them for one night at a rural resort hotel, and off they go.
They've only been dating for a couple of weeks, and so aren't totally comfortable in each other's company, not sure how trustworthy or honest the other one is. This undercurrent of tension is only exacerbated when they lose their way on road to the Kilairney House Hotel. There are signs every few hundred yards on the isolated roads, but they seem to be pointing in circles. They always end up passing by the same ramshackle farmhouse. As night begins to fall, they become more and more disquieted.
And then the really disturbing stuff starts to happen. A tree, apparently spontaneously falls toward them, almost crushing the car. They see figures by the road. When they leave the car for a few minutes, someone steals all of Lucy's clothes, but they don't find out until later when they find them strewn on the road. And that's not the weirdest. Soon, they come across Max (Allen Leach), who has a cut on his head and a story about being attacked by some local hooligans. But is he on the level, or does he have something more malicious in mind? And for that matter, does Tom?
Lovering keeps us guessing the whole way through, and doesn't give any easy, unambiguous answers. The answers really aren't the point, though. The ride is the point. And it's quite a ride. This is a slow burn movie, subtly increasing the tension and dread as the night wears on, and the two young people grow more distraught and distrustful and frantic. De Caestecker and Englert are really fabulous, and have a great, organic chemistry that suits their characters well. Leech is also appropriately menacing, with enough ambiguity thrown in that it's honestly hard to call which way he'll go before the reveal.
The film builds slowly, but has an exciting and satisfying climax, even if it does leave a lot of things open to interpretation. This is the most unsettled and on edge that I've been watching a movie in a long time. Highly recommended.