In the Earth is the first truly effective COVID-era horror/thriller. Mostly because it doesn’t call attention to the virus, and rather uses its inflections throughout this terrific biological (and supernatural) chiller.
Shot during the pandemic, writer/director Ben Wheatley (High Rise, Free Fire) pitches a near-future premise in the woods about two on-site researchers (Ellora Torchia, Love Wedding Repeat’s scene-stelaer Joel Fry) who are given the task of travelling to a related base camp. However, no matter how straightforward the plot may seem, the atmosphere is tense. There’s an alarming discrepancy between the strict medical protocols and outsider unpredictabilities – a combination that movie goers have refered to as “the new normal” outside of this movie. While this tension is relatable, Wheatley reels us back into the story’s entertainment factor with a hospitable squatter (Reece Shearsmith) who eventually reveals his own secret, and the extra supernatural factor with folklore becoming more tangible within this study.
In the Earth gains some jumps and squeamish behaviour from viewers with sudden torture and gore. But, Wheatley shows more fascination for disorienting techniques that make characters (and the audience) question their grasp on reality. Wheatley has previously played around with these qualities in his critically-acclaimed flick A Field in England. While A Field in England worked for some, I found it was too heavy on flash (sometimes literally with its strobe effects). In the Earth is a much better rendition of these practices, including the aforementioned strobe editing. A case could be made that the film succeeds because of its timely release, but Ben Wheatley shows much more growth and maturity with his filmmaking during slow burning sequences, waiting patiently to lead up to grisly payoffs or complimentary moments for some of my favourite performances of the year.
Do You Tweet? Follow These Tweeple:
Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie