Bring Out The Fear

Bring Out The Fear (2021)

Bring Out the Fear first published by

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 along 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 in fact 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. For as this live-in couple keeps going around in circles, foraging through the litter of their past problems, they get turned around, and 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 textual 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 which 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 and even – impossibly – Eric (James Devlin) 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 (2013), Waters’ film confounds a labyrinthine location with a more metaphorical landscape of the mind in which a cathartic confrontation can be staged. Rosie may eventually return to her home and to her bed, but we are left to suspect that the ties that bind – even figurative ones – are difficult to sever, and that she is not out of the woods, or of her personal hell, yet.

strap: In Richard Waters’ sylvan psychodrama, a couple gets lost in the woods of their toxified relationship

© Anton Bitel