[Editor's Note: Poster Lab is your regular dose of movie poster dissection, wherein the House examines the pluses, minuses, and in-betweens of the poster design(s) for a buzzworthy film.]
According to reports from Sundance, In Fear, the debut feature from TV and documentary veteran Jeremy Lovering, drew a lot of inspiration from The Blair Witch Project. No, the director didn't give his actors a handheld camera and strive to maintain found-footage realism, but he did keep them largely in the dark regarding script and story details, just as Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez offered cryptic, planted clues to Heather Donahue and company amid the Blair Witch shoot. It's all part of the same directorial method of drawing true, terrified reactions from your horror-movie players—the darker side of, say, filming A-Listers singing power ballads live.
That genuine heebie-jeebies technique isn't the only link between Lovering's film and everyone's favorite micro-budget '90s spookfest. The new In Fear one-sheet harkens back to that great photo-negative poster that originally touted Blair Witch, and showed ominous, skeleton trees that implied a wooded path to hell. Similarly minimalistic, the ad for In Fear also uses little more than trees, save for one sharp detail that makes it coolly remarkable.
Too few posters opt to play with the relationship between negative and positive space, which can add the great gift of artful optical illusion. The In Fear image, with its serrated blades providing the slits between those long, splintery trees, calls to mind the rudimentary illusions we discover when we're young, like a rectangle horizontally bisected in perfect scoops: Is it a row of teeth or a row of circus tents? Is it a curtain closing or ocean waves? Then, of course, there's Rubin's vase, arguably the most famous example of this sort of art. For today's subject, the approach easily establishes setting and tone, not to mention a touch of class often missing from ads for this genre, which excessively favors shock-and-awe marketing.
Still somewhat hush-hush as it enjoys midnight screenings in Park City, In Fear hasn't leaked much in the way of plot—an extension, one might say, of Lovering's tight-lipped helming practices. What is known is that a young couple (Downton Abbey's Iain De Caestecker and Beautiful Creatures's Alice Englert) get lost when searching for a country inn during a weekend getaway, which is planned to involve attendance at a music festival. Things start slipping from bad to worse, and Lovering has stated in interviews that the main thing he aimed to explore was fear's escalation, and the point when paranoia becomes justifiable terror. Indeed, the setup and the conceit sound a tad too familiar to inspire breathless anticipation, but this blood-red poster marks a check in the plus column for In Fear, which will hopefully take after its promotion and achieve stark cleverness.