Ben Wheatley is one of the UK's most ubiquitous filmmakers, and is set to return this year with his new chiller, In the Earth. Nailing the zeitgeist, Wheatley has fashioned a pandemic-themed horror movie, filmed, rather impressively, in fifteen days during coronavirus lockdown, so no doubt this is set to make our skin crawl in a variety of ways.
But then, what do we expect from the director behind Kill List and High-Rise? Wheatley revels in a mordant atmosphere of dread, frequently lacing his narratives with disturbing and unpleasant imagery. The first trailer for In the Earth certainly promises that as Joel Fry's scientist ventures into a forest with a very dark secret. Ella Torchia, Hayley Squires and Wheatley favourite Reece Shearsmith round out the cast.
Here's the official synopsis: "As the world searches for a cure to a disastrous virus, a scientist and park scout venture deep in the forest for a routine equipment run. Through the night, their journey becomes a terrifying voyage through the heart of darkness, the forest coming to life around them." And, if you're suitably prepared, here's the trailer.
In an interview with Indiewire, Wheatley described the movie in the following terms: "I wanted to make a film that was contextualized in the moment. Movies I was seeing that had been made but released during the pandemic felt very old-fashioned. No one is talking about what has just happened…COVID is going to mark a generation. It felt like making a film in 1946 and not referencing the fact that everyone had just gone through the second world war."
He added: "I wanted to make something that would be immediate. To talk about this moment. I wanted to make something about the experience I was having right now. And I think that is what horror cinema should be. It takes the moment that we are living in and puts it into a genre."
There can be no denying that In the Earth certainly has its finger on the pulse of the nation, if not the entire world. Many of the director's previous films have centred on characters at the mercy of malevolent events, from the unwitting hitmen in Kill List to the treasure seekers in A Field in England and the lovelorn Mrs De Winter in the recent Rebecca remake. Wheatley does, however, have a very dark sense of humour, made abundantly clear in the bullet-ridden carnage of Free Fire, which turned a shootout into a slapstick, chaotic affair.
No doubt In the Earth will be as prickly, contradictory and memorably bamboozling as the filmmaker's other works. It's credited as arriving on 18th June 2021 in cinemas, so keep your eyes peeled for more information.