SUNDANCE 2021 PREMIERE –Ben Wheatley‘s In The Earth is a gloriously nasty little horror movie. Shot over the summer of 2020 in the U.K. this man vs. nature vs. science mind f*ck of a movie places itself in a world where an unnamed virus has taken hold and the world is rife with paranoia. The story opens as Dr. Martin Lowery (Joel Fry) arrives at a lodge in the woods that is being used as a scientific outpost. He is greeted, sprayed down with disinfectant, and we learn that his goal is to reach a test site deep in the forest where research is being conducted. With local park scout Alma (Ellora Torchia) guiding the way, the doctor heads out. Of course, things do not go well. First, the two discover an abandoned campsite, then they are attacked at night. It is only after they come across a man named Zach (Reece Shearsmith) who has been living off the grid deep in the woods, that they get some semblance of respite from the harsh nature around them. Ah, but then things go even further south.
The structure of the story plays with expectations to such a degree that you are just as lost in the story beats as our characters are among the flora. Just when we have things figured out, we as viewers are offered signals that things aren’t quite right. Wheatley employs a number of unnerving techniques to signal danger. This begins with subtlety, then slowly builds as Martin and Alma find themselves at the mercy of their rescuer. Why is it that a man, living in a network of tarps has a darkroom to develop film again? Why is he so quick to offer help? All and more is revealed and then some as Martin and Alma eventually make it to the research outpost only to find that they are in even more danger once they reach their destination.
While the script is a bit redundant, and the pacing a little plodding at times, we still get an unnerving yarn that blends ancient rites, modern science, and what in may have to do with our current situation. This was an engaging horror film with some hefty ideas and fine craftsmanship. i really can’t say enough about Nick Gillespie‘s jaw-dropping photography. Between his choices in framing and his mastery of light and extremes, I was consistently in amazement. That is not to mention the fine technical work in editing, makeup, and score. It can also be said that the four leads including Hayley Squires tentpole what would otherwise be a hokey premise with fully believable performances.
The biggest success, however, is the balance of psychedelic mysticism and heady science that are melded with toe-curling scenes of gore and suspense. That’s what we are here for right? Nicely done Mr. Wheatley.
In The Earth screened at the SUNDANCE 2021 film festival.
7 out of 10
|In The Earth
||Trailer Not Available
||1 Hr. 47 Mins.