Film Review: In The Earth

Film Review: In The Earth

Film-maker Ben Wheatley has always had a penchant for the pagan. I was watching one of his early films, Kill List, over the weekend and despite it being a violent film about contemporary hit men there was still room for something occult-ish in it. The real abberation in his career seems to have been last year's remake of Rebecca for Netflix with Armie Hammer – a film so different in tone to In The Earth I had to go on google to check that there weren't two directors called Ben Wheatley.

We are back on more familiar terrain then in In The Earth in which Ellora Torchia and Joel Fry play two scientists heading deep into a forest during the/a pandemic to investigate something/someone or other – the plot gets so messy/labyrinthine at times it's maybe not worth asking too many questions. There are also a few cliches that are such well-worn tropes - ie going where there is no phone signal to call for help – that they feel as if they have been put there as a knowing nod for the film buffs in the audience.

It's difficult to talk too much about the plot without giving away spoilers. Needless to say things go wrong after they meet a helpful loner living off grid in the woods, played by Reece Shearsmith. The stars play it straight as Wheat'ey cranks up the atmospehric tension. And along with the tension there is also some grisly humour, mostly related to Fry's injured foot. I defy you to keep your eyes on the screen in one genius scene where the director plays cat and mouse with our nerve endings.

It's hard for a film with a pagan subtext not to have echoes of The Wicker Man and In The Earth is no exception. In fact it even has echoes of a more purely comic film that referenced The Wicker Man, Hot Fuzz, with a running gag about taking injured people to hospital that has a brilliant pay-off. 

The ending throws pretty much everything into the mix, complete with more psychedelic montages than you can shake a whittled stick at. Hayley Squires, best known for I, Daniel Blake, pops up as another scientist who has been taking her research a little too seriously. It's darkly comic, it's horribly chilling, it's probably just what Ben Wheatley set out to make. 

In The Earth is in cinemas now.

Picture: Neon


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