In the Earth

‘In the Earth’ Teaser: Ben Wheatley’s New Horror Film Is Shrouded In Mystery

Ben Wheatley is returning to the horror realm with In the Earth, a low-budget effort that he shot in 15 days during the pandemic because he needed to keep himself occupied. Fair play to the lad. The film also promises to be dirty, grungy, and nasty, which shouldn’t be surprising considering who helmed the feature. And if that’s not exciting enough, Neon has released a teaser for the flick ahead of its Sundance 2021 premiere. It looks very weird and spooky.

The teaser doesn’t give much away in terms of story, which more promotional campaigns should consider doing in the lead-up to new releases. However, the bizarre nature of the clip suggests that Wheatley’s next demented offering will retain the ambiguity and weirdness that made some of his previous horror outings — Kill List, A Field In England, and High Rise — so memorably fascinating.

In the Earth takes place in a world in which a deadly virus has broken out. As humanity attempts to figure out how to stop this disease from wiping out humankind’s existence as a whole, a park scout and a scientist venture into the woods on a routine equipment run, only for the forest — and the horrors within it — to come to life and cause trouble. Joel Fry, Ellora Torchia, Hayley Squires, and Reece Shearsmith will spearhead the cast.

On paper, this movie sounds pure Wheatley. He’s always been a socially conscious filmmaker, though never in a way that’s purely on-the-nose. For example, Kill List and Sightseers were products of the recession, though their commentary on the economic collapse is hidden underneath the surface, waiting to be probed further should the viewer choose to engage.

In the Earth is obviously his coronavirus movie, then. The storyline boasts similarities to the current pandemic that’s rocked the world, and I suspect it’ll have even more resonance with those of you who live in a haunted woodland area. According to Wheatley, the film is a “response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis,” but don’t expect a film about infected people causing death.

The eco aspect is very reminiscent of A Field In England, which follows a band of disgraced Civil War soldiers who travel through the countryside, getting high on mushrooms and encountering fairy realms, alchemists, and other terrors. It’s a film that’s concerned with the primal fear that’s synonymous with the environment. In the Earth seems like a return to that mindset for the director.

While the story and themes will undoubtedly be different from those in his other works, I imagine In the Earth will focus on the inherently haunting aspect of the British landscape to some degree. It’s a country steeped in lore and history, and Wheatley has claimed that this element gives him nightmares. A tinge of folk horror, coupled with our contemporary real-world plight, will ensure that In the Earth is bleak viewing.

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