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In The Earth tells the story of a scientist and park scout who venture deep into the forest as part of a scientific expedition and unexpectedly become targets of not only a madman, but the forest itself. With an intriguing, ominous trailer sporting an anxiety inducing soundtrack (and after a year of real-world anxiety-inducing realities), I was keen to see this horror film in a dark cinema auditorium with full cinematic sound to fully experience what was being promised.
It didn’t take long to learn that the trailer had lied. And then it got worse.
The story starts out well enough. We’re introduced to Martin Lowery (Joel Fry), a scientist who needs to go deep into the forest to study the soil and Alma (Ellora Torchia), a park scout who will be his guide. Martin’s destination can only be reached on foot and is a couple of days trek away. Not being an outdoors type of person, Martin will definitely need Alma’s knowledge and experience in order to make the journey safely. After an initial medical examination and Alma passing on some folklore about the region, the two go on their journey into the forest.
Their peaceful yet tiring (well at least for Martin) journey through nature takes an unexpected turn when they are attacked by an unknown assailant in the middle of the night. They wake up with most of their belongings stolen. Of notable importance is the theft of their shoes. When Martin gets a severe cut in his foot, the journey becomes much more labored. When they meet Zach (Reece Shearsmith), a man living illegally off the land who offers shelter, food and shoes, they think their luck has turned for the better. But they are wrong. Shortly after they accept Zach’s hospitality, they learn that he has nefarious plans for his guests.
Up until this point, In The Earth is quite engaging with a level of tension build up you’d expect for this type of movie. You feel like you are being set up for a nerve racking and/or horrific experience and I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen to our heroes next. Then Zach talks. And talks. He keeps talking. And talking. About weird stuff. He’s supposed to be scary, but he’s just annoying. Very quickly you realize there isn’t much to the story and the filmmakers are doing everything they can to pad this out to a feature-length runtime.
Even the introduction of Olvia Wendle (Hayley Squires), a *cough* scientist living in a remote camp in the forest with an overly loud and irritating sound system does nothing to make this story interesting. If anything, her contribution to the plot just shows this is a waste of time and I should have walked out when I wanted to instead of hoping that there would be some kind of payoff by the time the credits rolled.
It also doesn’t help that the protagonists don’t do anything except get swept along for the ride. Why are we even focused on Martin? He doesn’t do anything. As for Alma – who does make some attempt to take action – the situation has been set up so that she can’t really do anything either. What’s the point of their journey if they can’t do anything to help themselves?
At least the acting from Joel Fry and Ellora Torchia is fairly decent given the rubbish script. Fry gives some very strong performances in the scenes where he is being operated on without anesthetic and Torchia gives equally strong performances when she is hallucinating. But those moments are short-lived and the rest of the time they are just… there.
With jarring, excessively loud soundscapes coupled with eye watering, psychedelic editing (don’t watch this if you have epilepsy), it feels like writer-director Ben Weatly (Rebecca, Happy New Year Colin Burstead) wanted to make a very long music video or sensory experience instead of a feature film. While there are a few graphic medical procedures that will have you wincing in your seat and other moments of graphic violence, torturing your audience with painful audio/visual overload and a painful nothing story does not constitute a horror film.
It might sound harsh, but I wanted to walk out halfway through In The Earth. With a weak, padded out story, a laughable reveal (I won’t ruin it for those who want to see it), atrocious sound design, and an abrupt ending that’s typical of movies that don’t really know how to end their dumb stories, this is a movie I can easily recommend staying away from. I know there’s not much showing at the cinema right now, but if you wait just a little bit longer you can spend your hard earned money on anything else. Like the new Mortal Kombat. Or just say home.