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What Went Wrong With… In The Earth (2021)?

An image of an axe, foot, strobe light, sound mixer and trees

In The Earth is one of those boring, pretentious horror films that crop-up now and again, after which a slew of critics proceed to kiss it’s arse. Written and directed by darling of English cinema Ben Wheatley, this is another one of his overrated movies obviously made on a shoestring. With its shaky camera-work, flickering of the image, and lots of epilepsy-inducing strobe lights, In The Earth is an assault on your senses, or it would be, if you weren’t snoring. The loud sounds, flashing lights, and abrupt cuts are in my opinion, there to distract the audience from the fact that fuck-all is happening. With a plot about an ancient stone monument, alien-like fungal spores, ringworm, and a woodland spirit or the personification of nature known as Parnagus Fegg, on paper this seems like a folk horror but unfortunately the plot is almost non-existent, very much like the scares.

The trailer for In The Earth makes it look like a companion-piece to Midsommar but it’s closer to Little Joe in terms of pretentiousness and plant-based nonsense. I have no idea what the point of this film was. Something about returning to the green and being at one with nature, which character Zach (played by Reese Shearsmith) states whilst dressed in a Barbour jacket surrounded by tarpaulin and various other modern conveniences 🤔. I will confess however, that when Papa Lazarou shows up (with a tent big enough to house a circus) my interest picked up, but despite Shearsmith’s character being a worthy antagonist, the concept in which he existed remained nonsensical. I mean if some madman who’s just drugged and tied you up is offering to amputate your limb, exclaiming it’s “for your own good”, would you plonk your body part on a chopping block whilst saying “I know but…”? I don’t think so. There’s also a Die Hard-esque, no-shoe side-plot but the bloke who most likely took their footwear away gives our protagonists new ones (makes perfect sense).

Shot over fifteen days, the script seems like it was written in fifteen minutes… whilst on mushrooms. The story takes place during some kind of pandemic, but since it’s not explicitly mentioned, this is not satire of the Coronavirus. Wheatley instead seems to be impressed with the shape or pattern of ringworm rash, and in his screenplay this ailment acts as a homing signal for the “spirit of the woods” which leads to all kinds of daft scenes, most involving the set dressers going through the dumpster outside Maplin and Go Outdoors.

The cast which includes Joel Fry, Ellora Torchia, and Reece Shearsmith, are all quite talented and they couldn’t have done any more with the material they’d been given. Coincidentally, Ellora Torchia (who is forth or fifth-billed in the end credits but is arguably the lead 🧐) also starred in Midsommar, so maybe she should stay clear of forests and wooded areas, not to mention nature-based cultists. Ellora’s character is named “Alma” and every time I heard her name spoken aloud I couldn’t help but think of the Randy Crawford song (I know it’s not the same but it’s close and given the shear boredom this film brought on, my mind had to go somewhere).

To conclude: this is yet another below average film from Ben Wheatley who seems to have sucked-off the right people given the general overrating of his films, with In The Earth currently holding a 78% on Rotten Tomatoes! In my opinion, something very dodgy is going on here; there’s absolutely nothing in the entire 107-minute runtime to warrant such a high score. You should probably ignore all the quotes on the poster; this isn’t the best horror movie so far this year and it’s not phantasmagorical, although I’ll admit there’s some decent sound design (either that or the THX-certified cinema I went to was an upgrade to the usual flat sounds I’m confronted with at my local multiplex). The way I see it, the only thing this flick achieved was creating a new sub-genre, something I’d call “foot torture fetish”; scenes that came close to comedy but missed the mark like everything else. So is this a comedy, is it a thriller, a horror, a drama, a sci-fi? No, it’s just a bloody mess like Zach’s big-bastard of a tent.

Alma, You Lucky, Lucky Thing.

Writing: 2/10

Directing: 2/10

Acting: 6/10

Overall: 2/10

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