FrightFest 2021 film review: Bring Out the Fear
Sartrean sense of infernal entrapment8
An (inevitable?) meandering circuitousness6
Anton Bitel | On 29, Aug 2021
Director: Richard Waters
Cast: Ciara Bailey, Tad Morari, James Devlin
Where to watch Bring Out the Fear online in the UK: FrightFest 2021
This film is playing in person at FrightFest 2021 in August – and will stream online as part of the festival’s digital event in September. For more details on the online line-up and how to watch, click here.
There is a careful ring-compositional rhyme between the first and last times we see recovering alcoholic Rosie (Ciara Bailey) in writer/director Richard Waters’ Bring Out the Fear. For in scenes that bookend the film, she is shown lying in a cosy-looking white-sheeted bed – and several scenes in between also show her lying on the autumnal blanket of a forest floor, even if there she looks rather less comfortable. This is the posture of sleep, and of dreams – and sure enough, the film will unfold as a kind of spiralling nightmare. This is, arguably, one of those narratives in which “nothing really happens”, where events take place in a person’s anxiety-addled unconscious rather in any real location – but nonetheless it will take us on a journey that exposes one woman’s fears, temptations and abiding traumas.
Although he presents himself as reasonable, responsible, even romantic, it is apparent from the outset that Rosie’s boyfriend, Dan (Tad Morari), is jealous, controlling and aggressive, checking her texts while she showers and secretly threatening her ex-lover, Eric (James Devlin). When Dan takes Rosie on a short hike into the forest near the east coast of Ireland, his destination is an idyllic spot with a commanding view, where he hopes to bind her to him in eternal union. Yet the fairytale moment does not go as planned: Rosie expresses awkward, unwelcome doubt in her future with Dan and the forest starts to reveal itself to be as much a psychological as a mythic space. As this live-in couple keeps going around in circles, foraging through the litter of their past problems, they soon cannot see the wood for the trees.
Bring Out the Fear is a creepily disorienting journey deep into a relationship’s dysfunction and toxicity. The quote from Christopher Marlowe’s Dr Faustus with which it opens, declaring hell to be a boundless, inescapable place within the self, serves as an index to the allegorical nature of this walk in the woods – woods that fast become a place of increasing irrationality. For as the sun never seems to set on this sylvan zone that shifts and loops and folds in on itself, as strange human whisperings and unnerving animalistic growls are heard in the undergrowth, and as weird wooden effigies make unsettling appearances between the trees, Dan and Rosie realise that they are lost in more than a merely geographical sense – and so, like Jeremy Lovering’s similarly Irish-set and not dissimilarly titled in Fear, Waters’ film confounds a labyrinthine location with a more metaphorical landscape of the mind in which a cathartic confrontation can be staged. The ties that bind – even figurative ones – are difficult to sever and, whatever happens, we begin to suspect that Rosie is not out of the woods, or of her personal hell, yet.
Bring Out the Fear streams at FrightFest at Home at 11.15pm on Saturday 4th September.