Ben Wheatley is a filmmaker who certainly goes about his business in an unconventional manner, his filmography for me being a mix ranging from the very good with the likes of High-Rise and Free Fire, to the rather poor recent adaptation of Rebecca. This year, Wheatley brings us yet another divisive film in the form of In the Earth, a horror film that will certainly test the patience of many but you wouldn't expect Wheatley to do it any other way.

As a deadly virus ravages the world, Dr. Martin Lowery (Joel Fry) 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 (Ellora Torchia), is set back by a nighttime attack that leaves the two bruised and shoeless. When they run into Zach (Reece Shearsmith), 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.

Having seen most of his films and finding a lot to like amongst them, In the Earth left me a little underwhelmed and rather confused if I'm being honest. The film possesses a folklore angle that Wheatley has aimed for before with Kill List however, he doesn't quite hit those heights with a muddled narrative that certainly isn't the film its trailer would lead you to believe. 

In the Earth had me hooked from the off and I was very much with it during a tense first half where its main characters come across some strange goings on in the forest and encounter a stranger who seems far too keen on lending them a hand. It's atmospheric and unsettling at times, Wheatley cutting between our leads with an intensity that exudes fear. It's the second half of the film though that just lost me completely, Wheatley switching gears to turn it into something totally different and I just couldn't get on with it, no matter how many trippy visuals were on show or how good Clint Mansell's synth score was, it just became a slog to sit through.

It's a well acted film, Reece Shearsmith the film's shining light as Zach, the aforementioned stranger in the forest, who really unnerved me majorly throughout the first half. Joel Fry and Ellora Torchia do really great work as the duo sent into the forest unaware of what is in store for them, just a shame I didn't find the film they were in entirely accessible towards its later stages. 

It's a shame because I really admire Ben Wheatley as a filmmaker but if a film totally loses me the further it goes on, the more I'm going to have to call this one as a misfire from one of Britain's best filmic exports.

Verdict: ★★


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