Half of it is psychedelic, and the other half will leave you stumped.
There’s a scene about 20 minutes in “In The Earth,” when Alma (Ellora Torchia) tells Martin (Joel Fry) that things will get back to normal and everyone will forget this virus. He replies to that saying they won’t forget, but she says they will. She’s right about things going back to normal soon, but she’s wrong about us forgetting about the COVID-19 virus. We won’t forget it, considering it messed up the movie schedule, left people in fear, and took some innocent lives.
The reason they’re talking about this is because “In The Earth” is a psychedelic horror movie that takes place during that in the U.K. Matter of fact, it was conceived, produced, and written during the quarantine.
It’s also set in the forest with echos from “The Witch” and “The Shining,” among other horror films. There’s plenty of oxygen to provide audiences with some excellent visions set sometimes through the eyes of a kaleidoscope and fine performances, but the problem with this movie is it leaves you stumped (had to say it). Parts of it barely make any sense, and it’s hard to comprehend what the movie was trying to accomplish. Written and directed by Ben Wheatley, it succeeds in being visionary, but fails in being accurate.
Let me introduce you to Martin and Alma. Martin is a scientist and Alma is a park ranger. They meet to go out in the woods to find Martin’s colleague and former lover Dr. Olivia Wendle (Hayley Squires). And upon their travels, they both find an abandoned tent, sleep on the ground, and then get badly beaten in the dark with white lights flashing. And they wake up still alive, but without any shoes. And finally, they both meet a hermit named Zach (Reece Shearsmith), who lives in the woods with big tents and some supplies he grabs from town. He drugs them and ties them to chairs, because he’s a psycho who believes he can communicate with the Earth through worship and rituals.
When they escape from his clutches, they find Dr. Wendle, who has found a way to communicate nature through the sounds of the trees, branches, plants, and ground-most of which is aided by microphones and machines. But it also turns out that she and Zach are closer than they seem to be.
The performances from Fry, Torchia, Shearsmith, and Squires are all fascinating in their respective ways of merging with the terrors that Wheatley writes for them, and they have moments of sincere emotions and creepiness. Actually, the creepiness applies to the noises from the equipment which allows them to communicate with the forest. Sometimes they’re loud, and other times they’re moody, and I did tell you readers in my “Midsommer” review that I imagine being out in the field with a loud noise.
The visions are colorfully drawn, and merges very well with the noises and emotions, especially a foggy bank that was conceived by mushroom spores. That is when the trip really begins.
It looks chilling and ambitious, but it was still difficult for me to understand what the point of it was. Dr. Wendle’s side of the story made more sense than Zach’s, so I was able to grasp a few concepts. I admire artisan horror films for cutting back on the commercialism and for crafting vivid characters and dazzling imaginations, but “In The Earth” didn’t win me over the way I wanted it to.