Trailer: Will ‘In The Earth’ be the First Truly Compelling Pandemic Film?
One of the intriguing paradoxes of the great pandemic of 2020/2021 is that, at a time when people needed entertainment most (and certainly had more time to consume it), the very virus that caused that condition would also make it seemingly impossible to create more of said entertainment, which was so mentally necessary to just surviving from day to day.
But as it ever will be, the Hollywood machine was fairly quickly restarted, everyone got very creative with restrictive filming conditions, and the matter of empty movie theaters was solved by sending films straight to the streaming services – whose subscriber numbers have appropriately ballooned. One of the philosophical (or perhaps it’s just business) questions was, what would be the new balance of escapism vs. directness? The former has unsurprisingly won out – but there have been those whose work has directly or indirectly addressed the horrors of a health crisis that has left more than 2.8 million dead across the globe.
And so comes the trailer for the rather terrifying looking new film In The Earth (Rook Films / Neon, release date April 16). It’s the latest from British writer-director Ben Wheatley, whose 2020 remake of Hitchcock’s Rebecca starred Lily James, Armie Hammer and Kristin Scott Thomas. His newest is a pandemic story inspired by our very real one; and during said pandemic scientist Martin Lowery (Joel Fry) is found to be enlisting a guide named Alma (Ellora Torchia) to escort him through forest into which another scientist, Dr. Olivia Wendle (Hayley Squires) has vanished.
In the trailer, the latter queries the former, “Are you worried she’s going to get you?.” while he glances at a kind of tapestry rife with ostensibly occultish imagery. “It’s a local folk tale, she’s the spirit of the woods.” Later, and deep into the those very woods (and late at night, naturally), Alma observes, “Something’s there – something’s watching us.” An ominous silhouette of a man with holding an axe then might cause one to mistakenly believe this to be a more conventional sort of horror tale.
But we also see that the forest itself appears to be sentient in some very strange and unsettling ways, and terrifyingly alive with its own “viral” horrors. Ultimately, an abject, despondent looking Alma observes, “Everything seems to just keep us here.” It’s all followed by images of a search team in pink(???) Hazmat suits, walking into a mysterious fog…before things go seriously, frightfully wrong.
With extensive vaccine distribution offering some genuine hope in our real life fight against Covid-19, it does seem the right time for art to be addressing the subject of humanity’s precarious relationship with the natural – and with In The Earth perhaps also supernatural – world. But then, one could hardly be blamed for opting to just binge watch Mrs. Maisel again, instead.