In this new film by Aaron Morehead and Justin Benson, two directors who have been making a name for themselves with films like The Endless and Synchronic, John (Morehead) and Levi (Benson) are neighbours who decide to investigate when strange things start happening in one of the other flats in their building. They think it will be a great idea to document the paranormal activity that’s going on, and plan to sell their footage to some kind of channel or streaming service, but it leads them down a dark track of occult weirdness, alien technology and conspiracy theories.
Levi is a bartender with a strange past in which he belonged to some apocalyptic church (there’s also a copy of an Ayn Rand book prominently displayed on his otherwise barren shelf), while John is a recent divorcee. Both are basically slackers trying to find direction in their lives. The story jumps around between buddy-slacker comedy to mockumentary to horror, breaking the fourth wall numerous times. It often cuts to stock footage, and at one point they even throw in a picture of Jack Parsons. In other words, it’s a genre film that defies easy classification.
The film was conceived of during the lockdowns in California, and is a good response to all the questions the directors received about whether they would be making something. And while it doesn’t always come together, the pure ambition of Something in the Dirt makes it a wild ride. It’s more evidence that the only films with any value that are related to the ongoing Covid epidemic have been genre pieces. I think that’s due to the fact that genre directors know how to exploit it for dramatic effect—no one would want to watch a drama about it.
The actor-directors have chemistry, since they’ve played the leads in the majority of their films. Their dialogue definitely serves up a sort of comment on conspiracy theory types, Levi is the kind of guy who would think what Joe Rogan has to say is super-profound. Most of the rants are by Levi’s character, he’s at it throughout the film.
I’d say the film is 25-30 minutes too long, it would have worked better as a 90-minute or even 85-minute piece. It’s a bit indulgent, but also one of Morehead and Benson’s most effective movies so far. It’s not as good of a trippy horror film as In The Earth, however. One thing it’s very good at is the use of stock footage and stills to bring in an impressive film on a small budget.
While it’s not a film about the pandemic, Something In the Dirt is very much of it (although Covid is never mentioned). It’s flawed, messy and deliberately incoherent at times, just like the lead characters, but it’s hard not to be impressed by this movie.
The Blu-Ray release contains a 17 minute making of featurette, around 12 minutes of deleted and a few other features including a featurette about the VFX and the trailer.
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