US Rating: R - Violence/Gore and Language
Film Length: 93 Mins
Aspect Ratio: 2:40.1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: Optional English and Spanish
The Film - out of
In 2006, a festival of horror films was created – sharing with eager horror fans independently produced genre movies that promised to chill them to their bones, scare them to death and entrance them, as the marketing goes, in a state of fear. After Dark Films brought together eight films that would likely not otherwise have found an audience. This ‘Horrorfest’ festival assembled little known or unheard of films that dealt with stories of ghosts and ghouls; the grim and gross. The 2007 Horrorfest sought to reignite the success of the first festival, by bringing to audiences a collection of 8 more films to die for. The films in the 2007 festival included tales of zombies, ghosts, strange creatures and the end of the world. The collection of 2007’s ‘8 Films To Die For’ include Nightmare Man, Unearthed, Tooth and Nail, Lake Dead, The Deaths of Ian Stone, Mulburry St. , Borderland and Crazy Eights.
In a dusty, small and desolate town, a creature is unearthed during an archeological dig and let loose upon the limited population. Sherriff Annie Flynn, still reeling from a tragic shooting in her recent past and buried at the bottom of a bottle, finds herself investigating multiple strange cattle mutilations until the true menace becomes known. Armed with a hangover, the Sherriff and her rag-tag group of survivors, including a big money traveler just passing through (Charlie Murphy), two girls on their way to Los Angeles and few others, fights the terrifying beast and strives to protect the others and face her inner demons.
Unearthed was written and directed by Matthew Leutwyler and, despite some shaky C.G.I and an utter lack of originality; becomes at times a reasonably exciting monster movie. For all that it borrows from smaller and bigger creature features, and even elements from The X-Files, it seems to have fun with rehashing a few good parts of other films. Even the creature itself an unabashed nod of the hat to what I consider cinemas greatest creature, H.R Giger’s Aliens.
But despite that genre appreciating undercurrent, the film suffers from some irrevocable issues. The first is noticed right away, as the script introduces a number of characters in the opening ten minutes. So many in fact, some of who become main characters and others simply fodder for the beast that the cohesiveness of the story comes into question. The second major issue is the under-explored character of Kale, played by Britain’s Luke Goss (Blade II). His character, an armed archeologist, rather than becoming a good partner to the toughening Sherriff, meanders into a trite, mono-focused muscleman whose purpose in the film becomes less and less apparent as the events unfold. The characters in general lack any real chemistry with one another. While it is perhaps too much to expect alot out of the ditzy actress-wannabe’s or the hunk they run into on the road, the other members of the ensemble had real potential. The scientist in the film, Nodin (Tonantzin Carmelo), apparently a descendant of Native American’s and her grandfather, for example, were in many ways a link to the mythology that the film tries to establish. A good idea lost because they were not developed enough to matter. Besides offering some unconvincing wisdom to the Sherriff, the grandfather in general does nothing for the story. A common complaint I have is that horror movies too often lack compelling characters at the center of the action. Without that, these people are too easily relegated to merely being a means to an end, and that is no fun to watch play out.
Emmanuelle Vaugier as Sherriff Flynn is certainly the most interesting of the folk on screen. The inner turmoil, while not injected into the main narrative with evenness, does provide a way for us to get to know and feel for her. Vaugier pulls off the best performance, making her actions and reasoning compelling. Quite impressive.
Limiting your expectations of this little horror film will greatly impact your enjoyment of it. Expect new, fresh or original treatment of familiar ideas and you will feel deflated as the credits roll. But if you want to fire up a creature feature that will help you forget the sorry excuse for entertainment that the Sci-Fi channel pumps our far too frequently with its ‘original’ movies, then Unearthed is a good enough hour and a half for you.
Unearthed is presented here in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1. A fair amount of grain can be seen almost from the first shot and does not appear to be a ‘style’ or ‘look’ the film was going for. Softness, as with almost every other film released as part of 2007’s ‘8 Films To Die For’ on DVD is uniform. The darks become a little murky at times but hold up enough to show off the action. Edge Enhancements or other annoyances were not obvious but overall the image was pretty flat. Not terrible but not great.
Unearthed comes with a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound option. The goods are there when it comes to the bass and some genuine wallops in the subwoofer, but dialogue in the center channel is all over the place. It is hard to hear some characters, especially the grandfather, during some scenes but just fine at other times. Some balancing of this channel would have done plenty to help the audio out. But when the action gets going, a few directional effects bolster what would have been a total miss. The three stars are awarded mostly for the sound that comes alive when the action happens because, lets face it, when the characters don’t interest you all that much, the chaos and carnage are what you stick around for !!
Miss Horrorfest Contest Webisodes - (19:19) – Split in to several chapters that you can select or choose a ‘play all’ feature, this quest to find and crown the next Miss Horrorfest comes off like the slew of annoying ‘reality’ show excess clogging up the airwaves (and now the internet). Basically a classless diversion and mostly irrelevant to the horror film proceedings.
Unearthed is nothing new and it walks down well trodden paths with moderate success. It doesn’t chill to the bone or scare quite the way these ‘After Dark Films’ have been marketed, but it does manage to be more fun that most disposable genre films can be. A good lead character and some exciting moments redeem Unearthed from the wasteland of the forgettable but doesn’t match the memorable frighteners that draw so many of us genre hounds back to the well for more.