Unearth Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Lions Den Productions
Directed by John C. Lyons, Dorota Swies
Written by Kelsey Goldberg, John C. Lyons
2020, 94 minutes, Rated 15
UK Grimmfest Premiere on October 7th 2020
Alison McAtee as Christina Dolan
Adrienne Barbeau as Kathryn Dolan
Marc Blucas as George Lomack
Brooke Sorenson as Kim Lomack
Tensions escalate between two neighbouring farm families when one of them decides to cash in and sell up. Leasing his land to a big-bucks gas and oil corporation, George Lomack (one-time Buffy squeeze Marc Blucas) unleashes more than just his neighbours' ire when the new owners start fracking the place up. But which is more toxic? The subterranean gases, or the families' own festering brew of unspoken resentment, jealousy and denial?
Described as 'a fracking horror story', John C. Lyons and Dorota Swies' small-town chiller takes its sweet time to get going. The first hour is all buildup; a quiet character drama which establishes its two families and what makes them tick. On one side, stressed-out dad George; on the other, the unforgiving Dolan matriarch Kathryn (Adrienne Barbeau!) and both of their families. The movie's achingly slow pace frustrates, but Lyons and Swies use the time to build atmosphere and a powerful, permeating sense of dread.
That the slow buildup does work is largely thanks to the work of composer Jane Saunders, whose imposing, oppressive score is the real star of the movie. Unearth doesn't look like much (the gloomy kitchen-sink visuals are kind of the point), but it sounds incredible – one of the most unsettling horror movie scores in years.
When the action does get going, it's worth the wait. The story is disconcertingly similar to that of this year's Color Out of Space, but is horrifying in its own way. If anything, the smaller scale and lack of Nic Cage scenery-chewing make Unearth feel even more Lovecraftian than Richard Stanley's otherwise excellent adaptation. Waiting to get to the gore only makes the violence hit harder when it does come, as family members lose their minds and bodies start falling apart. The payoff is ultimately less interesting than the buildup, but this is harrowing mind and body horror regardless.
This is the ecological horror movie for our times. Whoever you choose to blame for the ensuing gore and violence – warring families or the big corporation – Unearth gets its message across loud and clear: Frack with Mother Earth, and she'll frack you up.
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