★★★ out of ★★★★★
Written and Directed by Ben Wheatley
During the lockdown of 2020, while the rest of us were learning to make bread or binge watching every series available, Ben Wheatley was churning out a screenplay that he then directed over the course of 15 days. While the events of the film are set during a global pandemic that is pretty much as “pandemic horror” as In the Earth gets (thank goodness).
In the Earth is the story of Martin (Joel Fry) a scientist who, in the midst of a global pandemic and under the guise of a routine equipment run, heads to a remote outpost where is ex-lover, Dr. Olivia Wendle (Haley Squires) has been conducting research but has recently gone silent. Martin is accompanied by park ranger Alma (Ellora Torchia) and as they set out on the multi-day trek they’re warned to be careful, that people have underestimated the difficulty of the journey and oh yeah, people get weird out in the forest- trust me, it’s about to get weird.
Now for the most basic of plot summaries trying not to spoil too much, here goes:
Deep in the forest their camp is ransacked, their equipment damaged and their shoes stolen. Shoeless, tired and freaked out they run into Zach (an unrecognizable Reece Shearsmith) who offers them food, shelter and shoes. Of course this hospitality is anything but and he sedates the pair, dresses them in robes and takes very creepy folk horror ritual photos.
The two manage to escape Zach (but not for long) and find Dr. Wendle who is still conducting her research with the hypothesis that all plant life is connected through a neural-like communication network. To her, this will in someway help cultivate crops but to Zach this means sacrifices need to be made to nature and the powers of Parnag Fegg a folk legend whose presence they (because Zach is Dr. Wendle’s ex-husband!) disturbed and guess who he wants to sacrifice…To top it all off, they are trapped in the forest by a fog of mushroom spores that cause anyone who inhales them to totally trip out; communing with nature ensues.
In The Earth brings the exploration of folklore, myth and psychedelics Wheatley is known for and plants them (he, he) firmly in the zeitgeist. Like most of Wheatley’s film it’s totally weird yet still very watchable but don’t expect to be scared or much to mark this as a horror film aside from some cringe inducing body horror.
The performances are enough to merit a watch and this film may be a nice entry point for the world of Ben Wheatley.
In The Earth is available to rent streaming on Amazon and other streaming services.