Ben Wheatley returns to horror roots with ‘In the Earth’ [SUNDANCE STUDIO]

Shortly before Netflix released his adaptation of “Rebecca” in October of last year, director Ben Wheatley was already at work on his follow-up project. A return to the low-budget thrillers like “Sightseers” and “Kill List” that launched him to wide acclaim, “In the Earth” was conceived and shot during the coronavirus pandemic and takes place in a world ravaged by an out of control virus.

“It was done as a reaction to the coronavirus,” Wheatley says of his new film, a horror-thriller hybrid that debuts at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. “I started the project to keep me sane. It started about a week and a half into the lockdown in the UK.”

Wheatley shot the film over two weeks in August during a lull in coronavirus cases in the United Kingdom. The feature is set largely outdoors and stars a small cast, including Joel Fry and Ellora Torchia.

“It was a big risk in a way. Because the film is so modest, if you had one problem it would have shut the whole thing down and the whole thing would have collapsed,” Wheatley says.

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While his film is one of the first to directly address a deadly pandemic in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, Wheatley says it won’t be the last. In fact, it’s his teenage son’s generation, he feels, that will have the final say on the pandemic.

“The true pandemic movies will come from them over the next five or six years,” he says. “The impact of it we won’t really see. This film is more of a ripped from the headlines, reportage kind of thing. The creative debt will be paid back in movies for a long time afterward. In the same way that you had all of those 9/11 movies that went on for 10 years afterward, I think this will be massive.”

“In the Earth” does not have a release date but NEON will debut the film this year.

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