Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans



 Directed by Aaron Moorhead & Justin Benson.
Starring Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson, Sarah Adina Smith, Ariel Vida.
Horror, US 116 minutes.

Reviewed as part of Arrow FrightFest ‘22

Released Lightbulb Film Distribution. In cinemas 4th November


It starts with a floating ashtray in a threadbare apartment. This surreal yet small scale, seemingly unexplainable event then develops into something else even more surreal and puzzling in Aaron Moorhead & Justin Benson’s latest mind bender. Filmed almost entirely by themselves, as well as pulling acting duties, at the height of COVID this may possibly be their most limited film in terms of resources since their minimally budgeted debut RESOLUTION but it also manages to be their most ambitious and dazzling film film yet.


Benson plays Levi, an unemployed slacker newly moved into his Los Angeles apartment. Becoming friendly with his photographer neighbour John they pass the time awkwardly and aimlessly. As a tentative friendship between the two starts to develop, Levi’s glass ashtray starts to float in the air, caught within a prism of light. As excited as they are unnerved by what they have witnessed, they seize upon the idea of documenting and investigating this seemingly random slice of phenomena. What they discover leads them down a dizzying path that becomes an obsession, leading them down more and more avenues, shining a light on the secrets not only of the city and universe around them but within each other as well.


After flirting with the mainstream with their previous film SYNCHRONIC and helming episodes of Marvel’s MOON KNIGHT series, as well as the unfairly cancelled Netflix series ARCHIVE 81, this sees Benson and Moorhead firmly back in the field they have pretty much made their own; a mixture of cosmic horror and deeply felt personal drama that is as keenly observed as any prestige or hyped up indie drama. SOMETHING IN THE DIRT is their most ambitious work yet, which is exciting enough for those who count themselves as fans of the duo. That ambition is easily matched by the sheer entertainment value of the film. A considerable achievement on its own but this is also alongside an original shooting style; a mixture of narrative, documentary, re-enactments within the story itself and even archival footage from Benson and Moorhead’s own childhoods that is mixed seamlessly into a narrative that challenges its own documentary like nature. The footage of Moorhead as a child seriously quizzing an actual and bemused NASA scientist on lofty concepts of time and space is only one of many highlights on show here.


The streak of humour slots in seamlessly with the vast number of themes on offer here. Loneliness, friendship, unexplained phenomena and the nature of media versus reality among many others make this one of the most ambitious films of the year. There is a lot, emphasis on a lot there, to take in that makes a repeat viewing necessary. Thankfully this is not a chore but a joy, not only for fans of the duo but for those who get a kick out of the likes of media that challenges and leads you into new unexplored territory. Nearly every scene raises new questions about what you are watching but it never feels unsatisfying or maddening, even with its refusal to give any easy answers or explanations.


This could be key to the no doubt fervent cult following the film will inspire. At times it feels like the cinematic equivalent of Mark Z Danielewski’s novel HOUSE OF LEAVES, a work that inspires its own theories and might inspire you to take various notes while watching. By the time we get to the various secret societies that have had a hand in the planning of the city of Los Angeles as well as all manner of talk of benign cosmic intelligence among other things it might even feel like a necessity.


Benson and Moorhead have thrown a lot at the screen here and everything sticks. Fans of subjects such as Fortean phenomena will be delighted, making the prospect of their long gestating film about occultist Alesteir Crowley even more enticing now, but for those not interested in such matters this is also one of the years most deeply personal and emotional films. For those who have been following and admiring the work of Benson and Moorhead this is yet another exciting progression in their career that makes them the most interesting creative duo in genre cinema right now.


Iain MacLeod.


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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans