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In Fear revives the thriller

In Fear revives the thriller

A couple are lost on a deserted, maze-like country road. Surrounded by thick woods and with night closing in, the scene of terror is set.

In Fear, funded by Studio Canal + and Film Four, is no routine chiller. From the outset, there’s a steeliness and realism, engendered by the director’s inventive approach and the director of photographer’s creative approach to camera work.

The main protagonists are not only robbed of a script but they are also kept ignorant of how the plot is to unfold. As the film was shot sequentially over month long period, the lead parts, played by Iain De Caestecker and Alice Englert, are as uncertain as the audience as to what fate awaits them. The improvised screenplay and the film’s echewing of CGI combine to deliver a distinctly and terrifyingly real dimension to the drama.

From a production perspective, cinematographer David Katznelson used a combination of cameras, hired from London-based VMI, to shoot every perspective, to take the audience into car interiors and to follow the fast pace of the running sequences through the woods.

“Most of the shoot was with the ARRI Alexa. The ARRI's a beautiful camera, with excellent dynamic range and it provides about 70% of the shots. Combined with Cooke S4s viewers get a truly cinematic and very familiar look.” Says Katznelson.

However, the production crew is not simply there to dispassionately record each scene. By using three different types of cameras, each armed with different lenses, Katznelson uses technology to add consciously to the growing tension and sense of insecurity.

“Visually, we don’t let the audience sit still,” he comments. “The look, feel and texture delivered by each camera / lens combination is subtly different. Matching the output of Canon 5D Mark IIs with Go Pros and Alexas is very difficult but we were not frightened by this dissonance. In fact, to a degree we played on it by limiting lighting to a few LEDs and using handheld torches to illuminate the near distance.”

The DOP points out that the difficult ergonomics of the DSLRs, the confined shooting space in the car and the potholed backroads of Cornwall delivered at times a shaky result which only adds to the sense of claustrophobia and spontaneity. Using the 5D in these conditions was a particular challenge:

“We were shooting with a minimal depth of field with Zeiss CompactPrimes attached to the Canon. And we used the Technicolor CineStyle Profile which delivered good colours that helped us get close to the Alexa look and allowed us to cut between the two cameras. However, maintaining focus, changing exposure settings and monitoring the shoot was a real challenge with the DSLR. The results, however, are very impressive.”

Things were far more straightforward with the Go Pro. These units were used sparingly and only to capture 4 to 5 frames at a time, such as the shot when a car rolls over the camera. Cheap - even disposable - these devices have a role to play but, as the DOP observes, the video they record is so far removed an ARRI clip, so that marrying the two together is virtually impossible.

Selecting camera equipment for a film destined for the big screen and largely shot at night was a project in itself. Katznelson reflects:

“We used VMI’s facilities to test a whole range of cameras. Having reviewed footage at Molinaire and having now seen the finished feature on a full-size movie screen, we are confident we made the right choice. The HD really does look excellent.”

In Fear debuted at the Sundance Festival 2013 and is now on general release. It has been widely claimed by critics.

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