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Something in the Dirt

American duo team up behind and in front of the camera in order to create a deliberately messy genre-bender about bizarre spectres and even stranger conspiracy theories - from Sundance

John (Aaron Moorhead) and Levi (Justin Benson) are neighbours who decide to investigate the strange events occurring in one of the flats in their building. They think it will be a great idea to document the paranormal activity, and plan to sell their footage to a television channel or streaming service. Instead, their actions leads them down a dark track of occult weirdness, alien technology and conspiracy theories.

Levi is a bartender with a dubious past in which he belonged to an apocalyptical church. There’s also a copy of an Ayn Rand book prominently displayed on his otherwise barren shelf. John is a recent divorcé. Both are slackers trying to find direction in their lives. The story jumps around between buddy-slacker comedy, mockumentary and horror, often breaking the fourth wall. In other words, it’s a genre film that defies easy classification. The directors are particularly good in the use of stock footage, bringing in an impressive little film on a small budget.

The film was conceived during the lockdowns in California. And while it doesn’t always gel together, the pure ambition of Something in the Dirt makes it a wild ride. It’s often flawed, messy and deliberately incoherent, just like its protagonists. The actor-directors have chemistry, perhaps because they’ve played the leads in the majority of their films. The dialogues provide abundant commentary on conspiracy theories. Levi is the type of person who would probably think that Joe Rogan is very profound. He’s constantly ranting about numerous subjects with an inflated sense of self-entitlement and the perceived authority of an expert.

Justin Benson and Aaron’s Moorhead’s fifth feature film is mostly satisfactory, however overstaying its welcome at 115 minutes. It would have worked better as a 90-minute piece.

Something in the Dirt premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

By Ian Schultz - 07-02-2022

Ian Schultz is a film writer based in Leeds, where he runs Psychotronic Cinema. He has been writing about films for about eight years, with articles and reviews appearing in Little White Lies and Live...

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