Each year Arrow Video FrightFest screens a series of movies from filmmakers early in their careers as part of their First Blood strand. The selection of titles showcase some of the more interesting creators currently working, and offers them a platform to get their work out to a wider audience. Being picked to play amongst the line-up is a great honor, but for some, it’s an extra special achievement.
Writer and director Richard Waters is one such filmmaker. Not only was he a participant in the festival’s New Blood programme – where new writers get guidance from industry professionals as they try to sniff out the next big thing – he has also been an avid attendee of the festival himself for years. His love for FrightFest is clear, the director even going so far as to include the voices of some of his FrightFest brethren in his First Blood offering, Bring Out the Fear.
Bring Out the Fear joins couple Sophie (Ciara Bailey) and Dan (Tad Morai) at a crossroads. Sophie is a recovering alcoholic who wants time to focus on herself, Dan is besotted with Sophie and thinks it’s time to settle down together. A walk in the woods becomes an unexpected marriage proposal, but after Sophie says no, the trees around them take a sinister turn and the pair find themselves lost. Can they mend their broken relationship or will they be lost in the woods forever?
At just under eighty minutes long, Waters doesn’t waste any time in getting to horor aspect of his story. In fact, by fifteen minutes we’re already in the weird woodlands with Sophie and Dan. This forest is creepy, misty, and always changing, disorientating the distressed pair further. It also has the peculiar trait of keeping the environment in perpetual daylight. One might not think that the daytime can be scary, but when it’s meant to be nighttime and the sun is still there, it’s actually rather unsettling. Then there are the strange sightings and ominous whispering (provided by FrightFesters themselves) which layer the levels of fear and atmosphere. The fact that the woods used here are nowhere near the scale of the one used in something like The Blair Witch Project, shows great creativity from Waters, as these trees genuinely seem to go on forever.
Everything appears to have been meticulously planned to both look good and also entertain the audience it is being presented too. Feeding into the woodland setting, the colour palette is kept autumnal and cold. The costuming is in neutral shades that help Sophie and Dan blend and merge in with their surroundings, occasionally providing a challenge for the audience to differentiate between them. The mustard yellow of Sophie’s coat is especially effective at this. With just two characters on screen for the bulk of the story, a lot of weight rests on the shoulders of both Bailey and Morai. Luckily both are capable of the challenge and quickly set Dan and Sophie up as a viable pair of characters. Of the two, Sophie is the more accessible, her lines feel lifted from the words of an audience member. This character isn’t afraid to cast light on the strangeness of their situation, something often ignored by films. When such observation is included, it is often used as a way to work in some humour and light relief. That’s not how it works here. Sophie is stating facts, and when delivered, they add a chill to the air. Morai has some complex emotions and attitudes to convey in very little time, but he manages to nail the role.
A couple getting lost in the woods isn’t a new story to the world of horror, and yet somehow writer and director Richard Waters has managed to create a film that feels unlike its peers. Bring Out the Fear has a great aesthetic, generates a genuine foreboding atmosphere, and has two excellent central performances. An accomplished piece of work, Waters has done his FrightFest family proud.
Bring Out the Fear
The love and dedication of bringing a film to life for the festival and family he loves is plain to see within Bring Out the Fear; Waters has made an excellent addition to the FrightFest programme.
Bring Out the Fear was reviewed at Arrow Video FrightFest 2021.