“In the Earth” is a psychedelic mash-up of M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Happening” and “The Blair Witch Project,” and it is unpleasant to suffer through. This disorienting, bloody story about killer plants and a psycho in the woods is more like an experimental film than an enjoyable horror / sci-fi flick.
A deadly virus has shut down the world, and Dr. Martin Lowery (Joel Fry) volunteers to work at a research facility deep in the forest. He’s partnered with Alma (Ellora Torchia), and the pair soon venture out into the woods to collect samples. During the night, they are brutally attacked and most of their clothing, equipment, and belongings are trashed. Seeking help, they run into Zach, a strange man who has been living off the grid. When they make it back to the man’s living area, they discover the forest is a much more dangerous place than they anticipated.
The first part of the film is interesting, with a nice foreshadowing to the mythical spirit of the woods folklore. I could even roll with the lunatic loner storyline. But the story hits a brick wall when it starts to blur myth with science, and the characters search for the key to communicate with nature. It gets ridiculous and silly, and it’s not even a good story to begin with. Not only does the film not cross the finish line, it doesn’t even come close.
Ben Wheatley does a fine job directing the film, but the end result is an incoherent mess. If your movie has to be interpreted for or explained to audiences, you’re doing it wrong. The ear-shattering sound design is uncomfortable, and strobe lighting effects are so overused that it made me queasy. Call me crazy, but the simple act of watching a movie should never be this unpleasant.