The only thing you can say on behalf of In the ground It is almost certainly the first dramatic feature film to emerge from the Covid era that explicitly talks about the global plague that sidelined and fractured international cinema – not to mention the world at large – as we have always known it. Other than that, British horror and chaos specialist Ben Wheatley’s little quickie is a tedious walk in the woods, a ho-hum affair with boring characters and a succession of nasty injuries. Imagination and surprise are lacking. Neon takes care of the distribution in the United States after the Sundance bow Sunday night in the premieres section of the festival.
Shot for 15 days last August in a forest between London and Oxford, this obvious low budget features Wheatley on a low and dirty bounce after his fancy and completely unnecessary. Rebecca remake with Lily James and Armie Hammer. But as exhilarating as it may be to quickly create an urgent survival story tied to the same dangers everyone on Earth faces on a daily basis, the imagination is in very limited supply here in a story fueled by concocted threats and violence. entirely arbitrary.
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“We’ve been down for almost a year now,” someone mentions, as Wheatley directly connects the middle of the movie to the here and now, not just watching a stark movie about an insidious virus that requires isolation careful of other people will be considered anyone’s idea of a good time right now.
But Wheatley comes out anyway, sending unpretentious Dr. Martin Lowry (Joel Fry) on a two-day hike through nature with park guide Alma (Reece Shearsmith) to visit a remote research test site. It doesn’t appear that bumping into other people, let alone infected people, would be of great concern in this huge unpopulated area, leading to fears that the film would prove to be as boring as living under Covid. Martin’s minimal manner of words doesn’t do much to alleviate these fears.
With Wheatley at the helm, however, one can be assured that he won’t spend much time without a nutcase, a nut job, or a flat looney letting go of some chaos. Sure enough, around nightfall, the drab couple unwittingly walk into the wooded lair of Zack (Haley Squires), an obviously off-grid guy who occupies a large multi-tent complex filled with basic necessities (food, shoes dry, photo lab)) and sinister (blades for cutting Martin’s infected toes). He’s a guy who’s been in the woods for too long.
Considering Zack’s inclinations and Martin’s vulnerability, there’s more chaos where it’s coming from, but it doesn’t take long before the film delves deeper into mystical hokey territory with talk of a naturalist about his belief that woods can communicate directly with humans. It would help if Martin had a clearer advantage for himself in order to provide good rebuttals to such a gobbledygook and a livelier exchange; an accidental three-minute encounter with the rest of the Monty Python crew, lost in the woods themselves, would have been most welcome. But the character as written is boring, without interesting conversation and opinions. Women at least have courage and points of view.
A horror sister as he is, Wheatley reliably delivers a few uncomfortable moments and a few uncomfortably gory scenes with tongs, but not enough on that score to draw fans in fear and gore. If only Covid himself could be there and gone as fast as the movie will be.