You feel a palpable sense of dread and paranoia in this brand of survival horror from the maker of Free Fire and last year’s remake of the Hitchcock classic Rebecca.
Ben Wheatley’s In The Earth doesn’t have anything meaningful to say about a ravaging virus (it was shot in 15 days about an hour outside of London in a seemingly rustic, woodsy area) which really is the backdrop for tis narrative.
Joel Fry (Yesterday) is doctor Martin Lowery on his way in search of a colleague and old romantic interest (Hayley Squires) who may have insight into this calamitous global situation. Over a couple of days a hike occurs with a park guide, cigarette-smoking Alma (Ellora Torchia of Midsommar) to reach the research unit.
A gradual assault of sight and sound allows for a hellish fusion incorporating a dash of science and the spiritual. For some it may represent a surging visceral variant on the likes of Annihilation or Wicker Man as a myth revealed by the denizens may conjure up something divisive and a little radical like The Blair Witch Project.
The devout, if maniacal Zach (revved up with glee by Reece Shearsmith) is the off-the-grid greeter for Martin and Alma as Wheatley sets in motion a very devious capriciousness. An edgy tug-of-war becomes part of the goal to understand what’s likely beyond an advanced species.
As obfuscating as it all gets there may be rich fertile ground to be mined within the shroud of human existence. An endurance test of In The Earth includes much throbbing use of strobes to help instill an unnerving moodiness complemented by the music from Clint Mansell and the lensing of Nick Gillespie.
Being with Martin and Alma is designed apparently in colorfulness of all things psychedelic as Fry and Torchia have a viable rapport as a sense of sacrifice comes into play. Not just from a surgical standpoint as the gristly is stitched into a surreal wryness. Ultimately Wheatley’s distinctive machinations into forestry peril (and power of mother Nature Nature with its nerve center) doesn’t hold up s well as realizing how troubling (and creepy) isolation can be during the midst of a pandemic.