By Roy Mathur, on 2021-06-22, at 00:41:51--01:08:27 BST, for Captain Roy's Rocket Radio Show, Listen
In the Earth is a 2021 folk horror from Ben Wheatley, in which a scientist (Joel Fry) arrives at a woodland park in a third wave pandemic struck England. He's like a hunched and broken version of alien Thomas Jerome Newton arriving in the Man Who Fell to Earth. He then traipses into the woods to assist a colleague who is investigating the Wood Wide Web; a network of trees and root systems and fungi making up a sort of superintelligent hive mind.
Tangent: the topical and real wood wide web theme proves that Wheatley listens to the same podcasts as me. And say what you want about M. Night Shyamalan, but he loosely got there possibly even before the scientists back in 2008's The Happening. Read The Secrets of the Wood Wide Web by Robert Macfarlane in The New Yorker from 2016.
Our hero/victim is soon beset upon by a maniac ritualist and only escapes into the questionably benevolent clutches of a mad scientist. A mad scientist who, by the way, right out of the blue lays on the pseudoscience with a towel: look at this, it's a special version of The Hammer of Witches (Malleus Maleficarum) or, it's the mystical ringworm! It's all out of nowhere and completely jarring.
Without Alma (Ellora Torchia), the dead eyed ranger, he'd be completely buggered. The protagonist is in fact so completely hopeless throughout the film, that his presence is essentially meaningless, other than to act as the sacrificial lamb, though with even less ability to guide his fate than Edward Woodward's devote starchy Christian cop from The Wicker Man.
I also got a taste of Tarkovsky's Stalker, though in this case the guide, Amla the ranger, somehow does not know her own territory better than the visiting maniac and the mad scientist. How did she not notice those big tents before? Google Earth? It beggars defies belief.
Tangent: yes, Anna, I did know that blooming Andrei Tarkovsky is the filmmaker and Stanislaw Lem, and Arkady and Boris Strugatsky are the authors he often collaborates with. Mixing up the names was a bloody slip of the brain on a night in Wetherspoons, so give me a break, I'm getting older. Intolerant know-it-all whippersnappers. Why the bitterness? You wait, you'll see in a few years. No grudges. Er, want to come on the show? Hmphf. That dragon's roosted.
The location was rubbish, the bit of land between us and the main road is more sinister than that well manicured park.
I liked the atmospherics, the psychedelic photography and visuals, but for me story is everything, and this doesn't have that. At least the cast was diverse and talented enough to do what they could with the script.
Could I have done it better? As a genre writer, it's a question I always ask myself. I'm not a director, but I could have made the script less creaky and dull. That script, despite the sheer preposterousness Wheatley expects the audience to swallow whole, is entirely devoid of humour apart for the single line, "That's how accidents happen."
Predictably, the film press loves Wheatley. This must be a personal thing. Perhaps it's because he's enthusiastic and unjaded and a fan, he has an indie arthouse vibe about his work, he is at least better and less annoying than Lars Von Trier who gets same kind of cooing plaudits, and finally, Wheatley isn't some Hollywood mogul. But I think he's hit and miss. That's good because he takes risks, but this was a miss for me.
Is Ben Wheatley's modus operandi for horror to take straight high concept movies and turn them into horror? Sightseers is a holiday romance, Kill List is a crime drama, and A Field in England is a boring spin on Hammer. Whereas this was more like an episode of Doctor Who stretched out far too long with a bit of torture porn thrown in. And why the feet? What is it with the feet? It reminds me of those two weirdos in Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
This comes off as a psychedelic sound and light show or a rave in the woods, perhaps with a bit of Apocalypse Now's, "...very obviously, he has gone insane." (referring to the mad scientist). On top of all that, it didn't scare me, but then they rarely do anymore.
Nida Manzoor's TV comedy show about a young Muslim women's London punk band (Channel 4 in the UK and Peacock in America) is short, light, and fun. If you've ever been in a band, it's even funnier because that drummer is such a drummer. I boxsetted the 6 x 25 minute series earlier today.
In a recent interview, Nida Manzoor, perhaps unintentionally, made it sound like getting the series made through Working Title Films made was a breeze. Not a chance! Most production companies, including Working Title Films, are actively hostile to cold submissions. You need to know people.
While you might not immediately recognize Nida Manzoor's name, she's been in showbiz for a while, having made her way up the ladder after starting as a runner. She even directed a couple of Doctor Who episodes, including the excellent Fugitive of the Judoon. What I'm saying is that she's not a sudden breakout talent. She's been an insider for a while.
This pod is also aimed at geeks with an ambition to be talent or creatives, so I don't want to pour cold water on your dreams, but as ACDC's song It's a long way to the top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll) goes, "If you wanna be a star of stage and screen, Look out, it's rough and mean".
I've gone on a spurt of job hunting. I applied for a yesterday and have more lined up.
I'm sick of rotting away at home. I'm not young and I'm fed up of seeing the years zoom past. Though I mentioned getting back into freelance journalism, and if all else fails I will, the problem with that is it can be an insular life compared with being at the centre of the media circus, where networking/schmoozing is so much easier.
I ordered new glasses with intermediate lenses for my computer, so I won't have to have my nose pressed against the monitor for much longer.