In the Earth (2021)

Nature is a force of evil.

As a deadly virus ravages the world, Dr. Martin Lowery embarks on a mission to reach test site ATU327A, a research hub deep in the Arboreal Forest. The arduous journey, guided by park scout Alma, is set back by a nighttime attack that leaves the two bruised and shoeless. When they run into Zach, a man living off the grid, they gratefully accept his help. Zach’s intentions aren’t exactly what they seem, however, and a path out of the forest and into safety quickly fades as the line between myth and science blurs.

A festival with so much content must have ambiguous, dark, disturbing films. In The Earth is one of these movies, and it will surely be incredibly divisive. Unfortunately, I don't believe it worked for me. It goes from having a lunatic overly obsessed with some sort of spiritual entity to mixing up actual science using creepy, confusing imagery throughout the runtime. Ben Wheatley is not exactly a stranger when it comes to creating a film with an ominous atmosphere (Rebecca), but in all honesty, I really struggled to connect with a single component of this flick.
The entire cast and Clint Mansell's impactful, unforgettable score - which some viewers will remember for the worst reasons - are the only aspects I can truly praise. Joel Fry has to deal with so much physical pain as Martin Lowery that I felt every single grunt and cry for help. However, it's really Mansell's heavy score that profoundly affects the overall viewing. The extreme levels of bass and eerie sounds will severely hurt some people's hearing abilities, but it plays an undeniably important role in the narrative and the viewer's feelings.
Sadly, the storytelling is more confusing than intriguing. Not only it becomes more and more complicated to follow and comprehend what's happening, but the ending is far from being satisfactory. There's an evident attempt at a philosophical conclusion based on intricately spiritual beliefs and self-awareness that didn't lead me to discover anything remotely meaningful. Overall, it's just a disappointingly hollow story.
In The Earth is one of those movies most viewers will feel uncomfortable watching. From the headache-inducing flickering flashing lights to the extremely confusing, creepy imagery, passing through some shocking visual moments, Ben Wheatley’s film is surrounded by an eerie, mysterious environment that simply fails to transmit anything slightly captivating or significant to the audience. Its slow pacing and ambiguous development leave tons of questions unanswered, but it’s the lack of emotional investment in both the story and the characters that ultimately damage the movie. Despite some terrific performances (namely Joel Fry) and an undeniably impactful score from Clint Mansell, there are no other elements that will make me appreciate this film more.
Rating: C-

Neon, Rook Films by Ben Wheatley.
Stars: Joel Fry, Reece Shearsmith, Hayley Squires, Ellora Torchia.

Genres: Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

Keywords: scientist scout virus


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