Sundance Film Festival: ‘In The Earth’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Ben Wheatley never fails to amaze me.

In the Earth was created during the pandemic. It definitely speaks on everyone’s mental state during the pandemic and how we all handled isolation towards the beginning of all of this. What Wheatley does best is plays with the confines of the location he chooses. Whether it’s a hotel, mansion, warehouse or in this case a forest, he finds ways to use every inch. The film integrates horror and experimental elements that will put you in a deep trance. The mixture of strobe lights, static audio feedback and different sound frequencies will bring you into that forest with them.

This is a science fiction horror film that uses the pandemic as a reason why people have fled their city. As a deadly virus ravages the world, Dr. Martin Lowry ventures out to reach a test site in the middle of the Arboreal Forest. He is accompanied by a park ranger named Alma. They are aware of this mythological creature that haunts the forest but they think it’s an old wives tale, until they experience an attack in the middle of the night. When they wake up they are disoriented and shoeless. As they continue on, they meet Zach, a man living off the grid entirely.

What Zack teaches Alma and Martin is that trusting everyone you meet, after they show you kindness, is not always the best decision. This also parallels the government’s trust in the people during the pandemic. The script is well-written and explores the psychology of humans. Wheatley has a lot to say about our connection with the Earth and how no one knows how to function anymore. Even in regards to survival, people do not use their instincts unless they are pushed to their very limit. In the Earth tests Martin and Alma by having them face these obstacles. He slowly builds up to the violence and the gore, while increasing the emptiness of the forest atmosphere.

There is also a contrast in the idea of isolation. We complain that we are isolated at home, in a safe environment with everything we could ever need. Meanwhile you could be isolated in a forest with barely any supplies or proper shelter. In the Earth has wonderful horror and experimental elements, which elevated the second half of this film. However, it is about a half an hour too long and does not have a strong ending to feel satisfied with the film as a whole. There are great moments and I was put in a trance during scenes where the sound frequency was high, the strobe lights were at full force and the editing was jumpy. What a fun ride!

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