Grimmfest 2020 Film Feature - Unearth

Runtime: 94 mins

Directed by: John C. Lyons, Dorota Swies

Starring: Adrienne Barbeau, Marc Blucas

Grimmfest Feature by: Darren Tilby

Synopsis: Relationships are strained between two neighbouring farm families when one of them chooses to lease their land to a gas company. In the midst of growing tension, the land is drilled, and something long-dormant and terrifying, deep beneath the earth’s surface, is released.

Grimmfest say: Two impoverished Midwestern farming families, slowly imploding under the weight of failing businesses, a sinister fracking company offering a Faustian bargain... The stage seems set for one of those Oscar-bait social realist dramas about a community being destroyed by an unscrupulous corporation with no regard for environmental issues – something in the manner of A CIVIL ACTION or DARK WATERS. And initially, that's how it plays. The filmmakers spend time carefully setting up the various family tensions, and creating a sympathetic and credible cast of characters. Then, with the arrival of the frackers, the slyly named “Patriot Explorations”, things start to take on a more ominous tone. Initially, the ill-effects seem grounded entirely in reality, a poisoning of the water table, the release of choking fumes into the air, and then, suddenly, startlingly, the tone shifts from Sam Shepard to H.P. Lovecraft, as the full horror of what has been unleashed by the drilling is revealed. Beautifully shot, with a real feel for landscape, location and community, nuanced and detailed characterisation, naturalistic dialogue, and strong performances all round, this is an emotionally engaging and genuinely unsettling, subtle and low-key; the gradually encroaching horrors all the more disturbing because the context is so well-drawn and authentic. Nice to see Adrienne Barbeau given a role she can get her teeth into, too, rather than the usual cameo, trading on her horror icon status.

What I'm Expecting: I'm a big fan of H.P. Lovecraft. So the thought of a social-political drama with a Lovecraftian underbelly is an incredibly exciting prospect for me. Other than that, though, I'm really not sure what to expect... A weird combination of The Host's pondering of environmental issues, the social-realism of Erin Brockovich and the inter-family feuding and isolated Midwestern locations that are so prevalent in Western films, perhaps? Regardless, colour me intrigued!