In The Earth (2021)

BEN WHEATLEY

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB

, 2021. , . Screenplay by Ben Wheatley. Cinematography by . Produced by . Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by . Film Editing by Ben Wheatley.

Ben Wheatley dreamt up and shot this project during England’s Covid-19 lockdown, a film which begins with the premise of a global virus and takes it to the next level of terror. As the world suffers under measures taken to prevent further infection, a researcher () heads deep into the woods to a government-run outpost where he meets up with colleague . He wants to find a former lover and fellow scientist () with whom he hasn’t spoken in years, and Torchia joins him in order to make sure Squires is doing alright; she was sent months earlier to investigate the medicinal possibilities of the fungae that grow in that part of the woods, but no one has heard from her in a very concerning amount of time. The journey requires that these two go on foot for two days to find their object’s base camp, which is going well until the night that they are assaulted by an unseen stranger while sleeping in their tents. In the morning they find that most of their supplies are gone, their boots and socks taken as well, and they must walk barefoot the rest of the way to their destination, which gets that much dicier when Fry gives himself a very upsetting cut on a sharp rock. From there the plot is a series of surprises involving pagan worship of nature gods, the obsessive paranoia of people who have been alone too long and a series of surprisingly effective scenes of funky psychedelia that explore the metaphysical possibilities that can come out of our discoveries about trees, plants and their ability to communicate with each other (and with us). The surprises keep rolling until the bitter end in a film that makes up for the failures of similar interesting but incomplete experiments, such as Midsommar or Annihilation, with Wheatley working on a low budget and small crew but, unlike other films made under the strictures of lockdown safety measurements, still manages to make something that feels rich and uncompromised. The actors deliver captivating performances, highly credible as scientists and genuinely convincing in the experiences of the terrifying, squirm-inducing situations that they find themselves in.

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