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  In the Earth Flower Power
Year: 2021
Director: Ben Wheatley
Stars: Joel Fry, Reece Shearsmith, Hayley Squires, Ellora Torchia, John Hollingworth, Mark Monero
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: The near future, and the pandemic has the world in its grip, having turned even more deadly and forcing the population into quarantine. For scientist Martin Lowery (Joel Fry), however, his research must continue, and he as arrived at this laboratory in the woods outside Bristol to receive his instructions as to what to do next, as he works in the field of botany and if anything can help this global situation, that can. He is told he must travel deeper into the forest, for miles in fact, to an outpost run by his old girlfriend Dr Olivia Wendle (Hayley Squires), accompanied by park ranger Alma (Ellora Torchia), and it seems simple enough...

But this is a Ben Wheatley movie and therefore nothing is that simple, indeed this was one of his horror flicks, which you could argue most of his efforts leaned towards anyway. You can tell things are going to go horribly wrong for poor old Martin even by the title sequence, which indicated before long all these investigations into symbiotic fungi were to spark a bad trip sooner or later, but there was also a degree of good old fashioned gore effects to underline the chiller aspects. After a fairly uneventful trek into those woods, he and Alma are set upon by someone who bashes their tents and them inside, then bizarrely, takes their shoes.

The sole (so to speak) reason for Wheatley to include that detail was to have Martin suffer a nasty gash in his foot that has to be treated in some of the most barbaric methods known to medicine, with scenes that indicated a blackly comical sensibility was at work, unless they simply had you wincing. But while some of this was admittedly laughter-inducing, there was always a sense that you should not be laughing too hard, as here was one of those horror movies that sought to engage with Mother Nature, taking its side against the barely-conscious blunders of humanity, a stance grown ever-more popular as the climate on Earth worsened.

The Joker in the pack (and it was a limited pack, the cast numbering a mere six) was Reece Shearsmith, well known for his television comedy and horror items, but also the star of Wheatley's earlier and not dissimilar A Field in England from a few years before. Did this mean they were repeating themselves, and the pandemic lockdown conditions this was filmed in were limiting their creative spirit? Or more likely, was it that they knew what their fans expected of them, and were keen to play variations on familiar themes to appeal to that contingent? After all, the strict rules as to what was allowed for productions in 2020 were going to inhibit even the most imaginative of talents, and In the Earth could be regarded under those parameters.

As a triumph? Or more, nice try? The results were too confusing once it reached its denouement to really be judged a complete success, unless confusion was the point to suggest a power in play in the story that was too much to be comprehended by mere mortals, you know, the 2001: A Space Odyssey effect. Though it was plainly a low budget affair and with even further restrictions placed on that than there were ordinarily, if you liked head movies with an ecological twist, this did concoct a series of images and performances from the politely bonkers Shearsmith and the spooky Squires that made it worthwhile for the adventurous, taking the basic quest narrative and dressing it up in science gone bad, a forest spirit too vast to understand, and ruminations on what form a virus can take. Were viruses the purest style of propagation, from romantic love to deadly diseases, and was what was sending everyone into crisis the way of the natural world? That much you could consider with some clarity; the rest may be more laborious. Music by Clint Mansell.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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