Reviewed by Adam Donato
Director Ben Wheatley, most notable for his films Kill List and Free Fire, makes a limited theatrical release in the form of In The Earth. This newest entry in Wheatley’s film catalogue stars Joel Fry as a scientist who is chaperoned by a park scout, played by Ellora Torchia, as they venture off into the forest. Rounding out the supporting cast is Reece Shearsmith and Hayley Squires who are later found in the woods. This wannabe A24 horror film may surprise you based on the marketing as it is very different from the traditional horror dart.
The pandemic that arose from the COVID-19 disease just might have changed movies forever (says an article that is being written just over 12 months since the pandemic started). Movies stopped going to theaters as people were locked into their homes. Ben Wheatley is not included in people, for he went out in the woods and made a movie. This movie seems to be heavily inspired by real-world occurrences. There’s a deadly virus going around and people are wearing masks. That being said, this movie is relevant, but is it good?
Just like the pandemic, the movie is uncomfortable and people are annoying. The trailer makes it out to be this big supernatural romp through the woods, but the majority of the conflict arises from the crazy people they find in the woods. Major injuries will have the weak stomached audience members feeling queasy. The strobe lighting and intentionally unbearable noises that are made succeed in being displeasing to watch. Is it scary? Not really, more thrilling than anything else. It’s less wanting the main characters to succeed and more wanting the bad guys to fail.
Talking about the editing in a horror movie is odd because sometimes it’s off putting, but to give the benefit of the doubt to the filmmaker seems like a stretch. This movie has so many cuts that feel rough. It’s noticeably awkward throughout the movie where there’s a cut that feels like it doesn’t belong. This is usually during the more calm moments in the film, whereas the horror scenes are much more effective. There’s so many times where things are flashing on the scream and one feels like there’s hidden images that leave the viewer feeling overwhelmed.
The performances are enjoyable. Fry and Torchia are more reactionary, in contrast to Shearsmith and Squires who get a lot more opportunity to shine. As stated previously, the scares come much less from the supernatural elements involved and more so from the human forces. There are cruel acts performed and some decision making that is down right baffling. It really is a mystery whether or not anyone involved will survive in this scenario. The tension is brought out by the characters, which is a nice change of pace from standard horror fodder that would rather jump scare its audience.
Overall, In The Earth is hard to peg when it comes to rating. It really feels like personal preference when it’s something so niche like this. For example, it would not be good to recommend for non-horror fans, but also unwise to give a blanket recommendation to horror fans. It’s upscale horror, but if one sees this as pretentious then that’s totally applicable. Regardless, there’s clear effort and craftsmanship present and anyone familiar with the filmmaker should have an enjoyable time. To the horror fan that loves something like Hereditary, this is the lite version of that, which is certainly no insult.
In the Earth hits theaters on April 16.