In Fear is not your typical horror film. There are no (visible) monsters; no gore; and not a lot of action. The film follows a pair of teens on the way to a weekend at a music festival. They get really, really lost trying to get to the hotel, and the longer they are driving around in circles, the more their relationship devolves. We spoke with writer/director Jeremy Lovering about the haunted legend that inspired the tale, and how he went about finding his fantastic leading actors.
Where did the idea for In Fear come from?
Funny enough, I love the woods. I find them a very reassuring and comforting place. When I was a kid I would go and stay overnight in the forest. I found it very comforting. I went to Ireland one time and read about this family who were Anglo-Irish, they lived on a massive estate on the west coast of Ireland. That was an area that was always in the middle of the British / Irish troubles. Four hundred years of ongoing violence. This family was right in the middle of it because they were pro Irish-Republicanism, but they were British, so they were attacked by all sides. Anyway, I went to see them. During the Irish famine, the landlord was instructed by the government to turn out all the Irish tenants. They either died of starvation or just kind of fell into nothing. He bought a boat and tried to send them to America in the first wave of immigrants, but the boat sunk and all the locals came to burn the house down. All the ghosts protected the house.
So it was that local legend that I was looking at. I set off for the pub on the edge of the estate, then turned into the estate - like I said, it is huge - and 20 minutes later, I came back to where I was. So I tried it again, and 20 minutes later I was back to where I was. During that time I thought about the history of violence, and it was getting dark… I’m not a fearful person, but I think your imagination takes over. If you fed your imagination with the things I had fed it with that day, you start to imagine things. That’s kind of where it came from. I arrived back at the pub the second time and asked why it was happening. It had involved into a kind of Irish joke, to keep visitors away from the family.
In Fear is a very subtle horror movie. There isn’t much gore, there are not many scares, it’s really just atmosphere. A very simple premise that anyone can relate to. Were you worried that it wouldn’t find an audience without big scares and jumps?
That was a very deliberate thing. It was a throwback in many ways, going back to what you might call psychological thrillers. I don’t find gore scary. It just doesn’t do anything to me. What I wanted to do was find a way to make a film that was a genre film but didn’t just rely on cheap scares or cheap gore. I wanted to make an old-fashioned suspense film. What is genuinely fascinating to me is that everyone brings their own interpretation of fear. A friend of mine is a forester, and he wasn’t scared [when he saw the film]. And why would he be? He lives in the forest! It meant nothing to him. I knew that and I was interested in that, looking into the psychology of that.
We did a screening at Fright Fest in London. Thirteen hundred people there, all horror fans, and that was the [screening] I was most worried about. But they really liked it. Most people stayed for the Q&A after the film.
There are a few times I did feel the pressure to make people jump. It accelerates your heartbeat and makes you respond. I read a report, I think a Swedish report, about the response specifically to horror films, and what they found is that some people just don’t have the hormone that creates adrenaline, which gives you the sense of fear. Those are the ones who sit there and think, “It’s a bit bloody boring.” So I tried to look at primal fears that motivate everybody: fear of the dark, fear of the unknown.
Your leads, Iain De Caestecker and Alice Englert, are really engaging. How did you go about finding them?
I had archetypes in mind for the characters. I wrote a forty-page treatment before I wrote the script, so I went into the casting process wide open, looking for people who understood the archetype and reflect the archetype. I needed someone who didn’t have the massive need to be the alpha male, but who understood the alpha male concept and was slightly dismissive of it. Iain came along, and he’s quite skinny. He grew up in Glasgow and on a Friday night out with his friends, they would always be looking for a fight, but Iain never threw a punch, he always tried to find the joke. That is what I needed: sharp, witty, carried a confidence in who he was.
For the role of Lucy, she is someone who is very cool, very savvy, intuitively wise, but she is only seventeen so she didn’t have masses of life experiences. She had a vulnerability - potentially - to big issues of betrayal, trust, sacrifice, and violence. Alice had to look at it like a seventeen year old girl. In the [betrayal scene] Alice found that very tough because she knew what her character would do, and that’s what all of us would do, but she didn’t want her character to do that. The character that Alice created - with my direction - was very much a reflection of things that she loved about herself or things she didn’t love about herself - but it was very personal.
In Fear is available on blu-ray and on demand.