“Unearth” review

“Be wary what you reap, when your land is sown with secrets.” It’s not easy being low on money, having mouths to feed and a large property to maintain. It makes short-sighted decisions ignore the bigger picture and could potentially ruin everything as you know it. Discover how that devastation takes place as “Unearth” made its world premiere at Fantasia Festival’s online edition.

George (Marc Blucas; “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” series) is in a tough spot since his wife left him. Living with his two daughters and his grandson, his garage is about to go bankrupt and he’s running out of money to keep his vast land and his broken down home. While his neighbor, Kathryn (the legendary Adrienne Barbeau; “The Fog”, “Creepshow”, “Escape from New York”) refused a gas company’s offer to buy a portion of her land to run some gas pipes through it, George doesn’t really see any other option but to accept the lucrative proposal. One year later, the financially broken man is now an entirely broken man as he realizes that all that noise and dust was ultimately for nothing: the gas company screwed him in their contract and are giving him barely any money. That isn’t the worse part, as the drilling and rumbling of the machines working on his yard have seemingly awoken something highly toxic and unnatural beneath his property. Something has seeped into their drinking water and the neighboring families will never be the same again.

“Unearth” was co-written by Kelsey Goldberg and John C. Lyons, the latter also co-directing alongside Dorota Swies. It starts off as a very sober drama, focusing on silence and the faint sounds of nature to recreate a sense of isolation, with barely any soundtrack at all. The film is definitely considered as a slow burner, performed with a ton of emotion, as the first 60 minutes of the 93-minute film is a heavy tale on dwindling finances, difficult decisions and tense neighborly relationships.

Only around the hour mark do strange things begin to occur and a heavy blanket of tension and anxiety is draped over the audience. The soundtrack really kicks in with a relentless rumble that will make you feel ill to your stomach. A fantastic collaboration between the special effects and make-up departments will have you grimacing at the gruesome results of the toxicity that arose from the soil through sickening practical effects and visually appealing make-up.

Casting directors Becky Silverman and Lisa Zambetti did an incredible job at forming this cast. Adrienne Barbeau is fantastic, as she always is, as the disgruntled neighbor, struggling to see those around her crumble. Marc Blucas is every man, trying his very best to keep things up and going for his family. Add to them Allison McAtee and Rachel McKeon, who both pick the film up on their shoulders, as well as P.J. Marshall, Monica Wyche and a young Brooke Sorenson and you’ve got a recipe for authenticity and success.

Oddly enough, the intense events of the final third of the movie culminate to a strange ending leaving many questions unanswered. The bizarre deterioration of the characters seems to leave little to no explanation as to what exactly occurred in addition to no concrete, definitive answer to the fate of certain characters. We are left to suppose that this and that happened to such and such and not to certain characters, leaving us scratching our heads and still hungry for more.

All in all, you’ll need to remain patient if you’re gore/horror-hungry if you view “Unearth”, due to its slow beginning. In the meantime, appreciate the performance of an ensemble of sensational actors amidst a heart-crushing tale before things truly spiral out of control. This slow-burner, a toned-down version of 2019’s “Colour Out of Space” crossed with a more humane vision of 2002’s “Cabin Fever”, gets away nonetheless with a respectable score of 7/10.

Article written by SIMON ROTHER

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