Out biking in the woods with his friends, young Ray (Ellis Gage) finds the skeletal remains of a man. Inspecting the skull, he removes a tooth and, when surprised by his friends, shoves the tooth in his pocket. Found out by his friends after they report the body to the police, Ray decides to give the tooth a proper burial in the field. When inspecting the burial site later on, however, he notices that, instead of a pile of dirt, a man’s face has appeared. As the days go on, more and more of the man (Colin Allen) surfaces out of the ground, and Ray must decide what to do.
The Earth Rejects Him has a lot going for it. For an obvious interpretation, it’s a fantastical tale with a pronounced element of horror involved. The man-plant in the field is something that should not be, and there are consequences to the child tending to the abomination.
On the other hand, we’ve got a boy who has found the remains of a man, and those remains become a seed that grows into a nightmare the boy will never forget. In that way, it’s a rite of passage film, a loss of innocence, done in sufficiently disturbing fashion. I’d buy either interpretation (and am open to even more ideas).
On the technical side, the sound mix is a little choppy early on, particularly when the kids are in the woods, or in the field, but you get the feeling it was as massaged as it was ever going to get; shooting outside tends to bring in birds and wind noise, you know? The sound mix notably improves as the film rolls along, however, delivering some aurally distressing moments in the third act.
At the same time, this is a film that feels like a slightly disjointed effort. For example, the scenes early on, with the discovery of the remains, seem overly focused on the children’s reaction shots. The cuts to the different kids’ faces almost begins to feel like a joke, like the film is trying to see how long it can continue doing it.
Contrasted to the edits in the second half of the film, as our hero tends to his growing humanoid in the field and deals with the consequences of that situation, and it feels like an entirely different film. Not just because of tonal changes, which are fine, but in how it is put together. Considering the higher quality of the audio mixing I mentioned earlier too, perhaps there’s an explanation there regarding perhaps a new editor, or maybe an influx of finishing funds? I can’t accurately say, but it seems like something was going on.
Overall, though, The Earth Rejects Him is a good creepy effort that does a great job of playing with the audience. For much of the film it seems like an unlikely tale of a boy and his plant-human-thing, but by the end the short will make its mark as a gruesome and gory horror film. It’s a tonal gear shift, but it’s not as abrupt as it sounds. It’s shocking, sure, but it works to deliver a memorable third act.
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