Everyone managed the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown in their own way. Ben Wheatley, the filmmaker behind acclaimed genre hits like Kill List and A Field in England, got through by writing and directing a horror movie, which he shot over the course of just two weeks last summer.
The result is In The Earth, a low-budget, small-scale nightmare that premiered earlier this year to critical acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival and will soon be arriving in theaters. Guided by Wheatley's distinct, often hallucinatory approach to horror and his knack for intimate scary scenarios, it's a film that takes just a handful of characters on a dark trip into the woods, where they meet a terrifying blend of old spirits and new science.
Written with the COVID-19 crisis in mind (and using certain public health measures in the U.K. as a backdrop), the film follows a research scientist (Joel Fry) as he ventures out with a local park scout (Ellora Torchia) as they head out into the thick of a forest where some colleagues recently went missing. Though they're warned that people sometimes go "funny" when they're in the woods too long, their journey is supposed to be relatively routine. As you'll see in the trailer below, that's not exactly how things work out.
As Wheatley explained when he announced the film last year, he developed In The Earth "just to keep [his] head together with lockdown happening," then shot with a small budget and a small crew over a period of just 15 days over the summer.
“I’ve said it a lot, but I think I’ve always seen it as there being genres of subject but also genres of budget, and those genres of budget are micro-budget, low-budget, mid-budget, and high-budget, which make for totally different filmmaking experiences,” Wheatley said.
By November of 2020, the film had wrapped production after an extremely short gestation period, and was ready for its Sundance premiere. Now, this wild blend of eco-horror, survival horror, and folk horror is heading to theaters April 23.
At the time In The Earth was conceived, Wheatley was also at work on the sequel to Alicia Vikander's Tomb Raider. He's since been replaced on that film by Lovecraft Country's Misha Green and joined another sequel instead: The follow-up to prehistoric shark action spectacular The Meg, which he's now developing.