Fantasia Review: Unearth

Dealing with internal and external troubles, two families are at odds over what to do with their farmland. One family decides to lease their land for fracking. When the fracking unleashes something ancient, it leads to dire consequences for the generations living on the land.

Fantasia International Film Festival continues to bring a wide range of unique films with Unearth. The film is co-directed by John C. Lyons (Schism, There Are No Goodbyes) and Dorota Swies (Schism, There Are No Goodbyes). Lyons also co-wrote the film with Kelsey Goldberg, making her feature-film debut. This film is the definition of a slow burn. The filmmakers take their time gradually building the tension. This tension comes in the form of strained familial relationships, financial struggles, and disagreements between the two main families. One of these families takes pride in working their farm. The other family is having difficulty making ends meet, which is what leads to them leasing their land for fracking. This only makes the issues between the two families even more fractious. It isn’t really until the final act of the film that they show what was buried deep underground and how it wreaks havoc on the unsuspecting families. The climax of the film really emphasizes the strain between the characters while also introducing some truly shocking moments of gore.

It’s clear Unearth is meant to be a slow burn and for the focus to be on the relationships between the individual characters. The more horrific elements are more of a side note to make the end of the film more shocking. While I found this to be enjoyable because it allowed for thorough character development so I cared more about each person’s fate, it will also likely deter many viewers. Many audiences are sure to find the film to be too slow and the shocking climax won’t be enough to make up for that. The final moments of the film also seem out of place with what we learned about what was unleashed only moments before. It leaves a lot of unanswered questions, and not the good kind.

Unearth has a great ensemble cast, including relative newcomers and some horror favorites. Horror fan-favorite Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog, Escape From New York) plays Kathryn. Kathryn is the matriarch of her farm and very set in her ways. Barbeau knows how to play a strong, powerful woman and she does not disappoint in this role. Another face horror fans will likely recognize is Marcus Blucas (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Knight and Day), who plays George. Much like Kathryn, George is the head of his family on the neighboring farm, but he differs in how he struggles with his leadership role and continually makes bad decisions. Blucas does a great job of bringing this character to life in a way that makes him flawed yet sympathetic. These two opposing characters stand out in a memorable way. Honorable mention goes to Allison McAtee (Bloomington, Calfornication) and Rachel McKeon (Jessica Jones, Gone).

While the practical effects are reserved for the climax of Unearth, they definitely pack quite a punch. I won’t go into too much detail regarding these effects because I don’t want to spoil anything. What I can tell you is that the filmmakers managed to fit quite a bit of gore in a short amount of time. Not only are these effects incredibly well done, they are quite shocking and at times truly disturbing. Some of the images from the climax of the film are guaranteed to stick with the audience long after the film ends.

Unearth is a suspenseful character study that takes its time leading up to a disturbing climax. The filmmakers clearly want to make sure the audience is invested in the characters, but it might take a bit too long to get into the horror awaiting underground. While the slow burn works fine for me, it’s sure to alienate some viewers. Luckily, the film boasts great performances and the effects during the climax hold no punches. There’s no denying that moments of this film definitely make it a memorable viewing experience.


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