Impressive horror debut set in Ireland from Jeremy Lovering
Seeing other people scared is often the scariest thing of all. That’s why found-footage flicks like The Blair Witch Project still unnerve. For his feature debut, an impressive, immersive chiller, TV director Jeremy Lovering filmed his two lead actors driving around a series of desolate country roads, only drip-feeding them essential story information, so when they seem confused – or terrified – they are. The result is more Sartrean trap than slasher film, and the actors’ palpable unease soon seeps into your bones.
Tom (Iain De Caestecker) and Lucy (Alice Englert) are a new couple driving to a music festival in Ireland, although Tom has secretly planned a romantic stopover along the way. We first meet them exiting a country pub at speed. Tom’s upset the locals, although we’re not sure how, and the pair head off-map to find their hotel, driving round in endless circles, getting paranoid and afraid. Because Tom and Lucy are all but strangers, instead of bickering when things go wrong, they start to suspect each other. And because De Caestecker and Englert are as much in the dark as we are, both give terrifically natural performances.
And what dark. Amid the oppressive beauty of the landscape (actually Bodmin Moor in Cornwall), Lovering’s camera picks out ominous details that increase in significance as the screws tighten – signs leading nowhere, figures looming out of the inky blackness, Lucy’s stolen clothes scattered across the road.
Although the decision to put atmosphere ahead of plot pays dividends in the build-up, it also means that the film starts to unravel towards the end, when the ambiguity dissipates into obviousness. But most writer-directors don’t know how to start a film like this, let alone finish it, and as a portrait of two people hopelessly lost and horribly scared it’s a haunting watch.
General release from Fri 15 Nov.