In the Earth (2021) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

In the Earth (2021) Review

Horrorific content by Christina Dee on March 29th, 2021 | Movie Review | Survival, Sci-Fi, Confined, Virus

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As the world searches for a cure to a disastrous virus, a scientist and park scout venture deep in the forest for a routine equipment run.

In the Earth was directed by Ben Wheatley (known for Kill List and A Field in England) and stars Joel Fry, Ellora Torchia, Hayley Squires (from In Fabric), Reece Shearsmith (from The Cottage) and Mark Monero.

In the Earth Review

There are two types of horror fans out there when it comes to pandemic movies right now – those who avoid them at all costs and those who appreciate how close to home they currently hit. If you’re the latter, you might be interested in this month’s release of In the Earth. Director Ben Wheatley’s latest offering walks the fine line between atmospheric folk horror and sci-fi thriller. In the Earth was even shot during the lockdowns of 2020 for extra authenticity.

The film is set in a world where a deadly virus has swept ravaged the globe, bringing the whole of humanity to its knees. In a direct nod to current COVID regulations, people must wear masks, and quarantine is par for the course. The opening scene takes place at an English research center where new specialist Dr. Martin Lowery (Joel Fry) is preparing to embark on a mission to find Dr. Olivia Wendle (Hayley Squires).

Dr. Wendle’s last known whereabouts were a massive nearby forest where she was conducting research, so Lowery naturally starts his search there with scout Alma (Ellora Torchia) in tow. However, it doesn’t take long for things to take a hard left into less fortunate territory. Lowery winds up with a nasty gash on his foot, and their camp is inexplicably raided, leaving them in need of help.

Alma and Lowery eventually meet Zach (Reece Shearsmith), a mysterious man who’s been living off the grid in the woods for some time. Zach does indeed offer the rescuers the help they so desperately need, but it soon becomes clear he has a strange agenda of his own. What is he really after, and what – if anything -- does it have to do with the mysterious disappearance of Dr. Wendle?

Whatever else you might say about In the Earth, there’s no mistaking the fact that this is a Ben Wheatley film all the way. His recent Rebecca remake represented a departure for him, but he’s back to the quirky terrain he’s famous for exploring in other works like Kill List and A Field in England. That’s something you’ll either like or you won’t.

In the Earth is a strange mixture of folk horror, a la The Blair Witch Project or The Wicker Man, but it’s got intense sci-fi and suspense vibes to it, as well. There’s even some wry comedy thrown in there for good measure, although it doesn’t always land as intended. The film opens on a tense note that’s very promising and continues strong… for a while. However, parts of the plot begin to unravel and run out of steam about halfway through.

Even so, In the Earth represents a commendable and entertaining effort on Wheatley’s part. He made this film on a shoestring budget with meager resources, but it doesn’t show. Production design by Felicity Hickson and photography by Nick Gillespie help each scene to shine and add depth to Wheatley’s world. Many of the cast members turn in noteworthy performances, as well. Torchia is fantastic as the energetic Alma, while Fry brings Dr. Lowery to life as a likable but sometimes ineffectual scientist.

Worth Watching?

In the Earth undoubtedly revisits a lot of familiar territory for Wheatley and fans of his work. In some ways, it almost feels too familiar, especially once you finally make it to the ending and get the answers you’ve been waiting for. The plotline and story progression also feel uncomfortably cluttered, starting at the midpoint of the film. However, there’s enough to appreciate about In the Earth to make it worth at least one watch. It probably won’t make your running list of all-time greats, but it will certainly keep you entertained for its 107 minute runtime.

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