THEATRICAL REVIEW: Peculiar, frenetic In The Earth marks director Wheatley’s most ambitious effort

Director Ben Wheatley’s films have been all over the place the last few years. From the crowd-pleasing actioner Free Fire to the melodramatic snoozefest Happy New Year, Colin Burstead, things are either really good or really bad when Wheatley gets in the director’s chair.

While the writer-director most recent work, naturalistic horror tilt In The Earth is neither incredible nor bad, it’s certainly marked by a go-for-broke style I couldn’t help but appreciate.

Set in the near future, a scientist and park scout venture into the woods while a virus plagues the earth. Their equipment run takes a tumultuous turn when they run into a man living alone in the area. He first acts like a saviour to the two, but things aren’t as they seem.

The shots are visceral, the visuals are truly disturbing at points, and you simply won’t be able to look away. Not everything about In The Earth makes sense, and its environmental themes may seem a bit heavy-handed, but no one can say Wheatley doesn’t make a decidedly brave film here.

Joel Fry, Ellora Torchia and Hayley Squires are fantastic in the lead roles, with a supporting turn by Reece Shearsmith that will chill you to the bone.

The actor is murderous, scary and unrecognizable under matted hair here, and watching him onscreen is by far the best part. This is a messy, sometimes-silly film, but Wheatley’s commitment to the narrative and willingness to take risks endeared me to it, even if I didn’t love every choice he made.

3/5 Stars

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