Ben Wheatley – to me anyway – really seems to be one of those ‘marmite’ directors. For everyone I meet who loves his stuff there’s someone else who hates it, mainly down to the ‘off the beaten path’ approach he uses to his storytelling.

I’m in the former camp – it would be hard not to after being stunned by Kill List when it screened at Frightfest back in the day – so I was all over In The Earth from the moment it was announced.

And, having now absorbed the film in all its glory, chances are this folk horror outing is unlikely to shift anyone’s perceptions of just what Wheatley is capable of – good or bad.

Set amidst a pandemic (that is never overtly explained), scientist Martin (Joel Fry) heads out into the countryside to a research station, on the grounds that some of the soil in the area is showing some pretty strange readings in terms of its ability to support life.

There’s also a murky backstory where Martin’s former colleague/boss Olivia (Hayley Squires) went missing in said forest, searching for similar answers.

Martin and fellow scientist Alma (Ellora Torchia) pack their bags and head into the wilderness, despite warnings of witches, curses and folk horror abound.

Things start off serenely enough, but as they venture deeper into the darkness it becomes clear they may be well out of depth, besieged by forces both human and more sinister…

I’ve always been baffled by films that are described as ‘trips’ or ‘experiences’ (2001 springs immediately to mind) as I have just never encountered the same feelings. But I may have to rethink those opinions after Wheatley’s opus which, certainly for the second half of the film, is a full-blown psychedelic freakout that is a pure assault on the senses.

A cacophony of sound, shapes and colours, In The Earth is like nothing I’ve ever seen before and if you throw in the overtones of folk horror it’s a real winner.

It is deliberately funny at times, so while the performances of the likes of Reece Shearsmith may smack of being over the top, they perfectly suit the vibe that Wheatley was clearly going for.

Both Fry and Torchia make likeable leads, finding themselves in way over their heads and their palpable panic at a situation getting out of control filters directly through to the audience.

Forget the performances though, this is Wheatley’s show and he conjures up a piece that is at times mesmerising, overpowering even.

If you go down to the woods today…well let’s just say you’ll have an experience you are unlikely to forget.

Movie Review: In The Earth
4.0Overall Score
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About The Author

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written three books - on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014), the history of the character Norman Bates (2015) and the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker (2017). He is currently working with director Richard Loncraine to explore all avenues in a bid to orchestrate the re-release of 1978 Mia Farrow chiller Full Circle