Something in the Dirt (from 4 Nov, region-wide) is the latest creation from filmmakers Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson, whose previous work includes the critically acclaimed The Endless. In that 2017 film, the pair play the central characters (also called Aaron and Justin) who are caught up in a UFO cult connected to a time-shifting anomaly. In this one, which has a similar quirky tone and definitely strange feel, Moorhead and Benson take up the central roles again.
Benson plays Levi, a bit of a waster with a chequered past, who moves into a run-down apartment on the edge of the city. Aaron plays John, a sober, slightly more uptight neighbour who’s a member of an evangelical church. The two quickly become friends, bonding over cigarettes, and when they witness a weird event in Levi’s apartment, in the form of a floating glass ashtray, they begin to document the anomalies on camera in the hope that the resulting film will bring them fame and fortune. But the more they delve into the events, the more they begin to learn about one another and the more intense and stranger the disturbances become.
Structured as part supernatural sci-fi drama (hints of both Poltergeist and Close Encounters can be found), and part faux documentary about the filming, with “experts” talking to the camera about what is, or isn’t, going on, this is a curious mishmash of a film.
Filmed during lockdown, Moorhead and Benson dominate the nearly two-hour runtime in what is, for the most part, a two-handed, set-bound play, with much of the filming taking place in Benson’s real apartment. As with The Endless, the filmmakers never take things too seriously and there’s some fun, off the wall humour in the script which is packed full of various references and musings on religion, science fiction, psychology and ancient mysticism, to name but a few of the strands that this magpie-like film collects. The relentless soundtrack, that grinds and clinks away in the background, and the visual effects all work well, but it’s hard to escape the sense that you’re watching the result of two highly talented but rather frustrated filmmakers who made this film on a whim because they had little else to do at the time. The net result is fun and often engaging, but nowhere near as enthralling and compelling as some of their previous films.
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