Something in the Dirt - New Release Review
Director: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead
Starring: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, Sarah Adina Smith
Written by: Justin Benson
Produced by: Justin Benson, David Lawson Jr, Aaron Moorhead
Cinematography by: Aaron Moorhead
Original Score by: Jimmy LaValle
When neighbors John and Levi witness supernatural events in their Los Angeles apartment building, they realize documenting the paranormal could inject some fame and fortune into their wasted lives.
Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead's much anticipated latest mind bending feature film has been doing the rounds on the festival circuit to overwhelminghly critical acclaim. It's a low budget indie science fiction flick that is bound to have you scratching your head (I know I was) but in the end it will leave you asking questions about the integrity of friendship and the quest to find some meaningful purpose to life.
'Something in the Dirt' is kinda hard to talk about without divulging some spoilers along the way. In fact it's a difficult film to talk about in general because it's such a strange piece of filmmaking. It's not a documentary but parts of it are filmed that way, with talking head interviews from our two leading men and people that they worked with. We also get some flashback footage (which I believe is real home footage of the lads) filtered throughout the film that helps explain some character traits and personalities. But most of the film is set in a cheap ass apartment complex in a dingy area of Laurel Canyon, L.A. and focuses on Levi Danube (Benson) and John Daniels' (Moorhead) brand new budding friendship.
Levi has just moved into an apartment that has sat idle for years and the first face he meets is his neighbour John, who welcomes him to the complex with open arms and a complimentary cigarette. Cigarettes are so prevalent in this film that I was sure there was going to be some huge important reveal about them being some kind of hallucinogen. And who knows maybe they are because there's a lot of ambiguity in the film (like a lot) and it makes you question the validity of Levi and John's reality.
The duo's journey begins with their initial meeting then as they get to know each other better they share a supernatural experience involving a strangely translucent object which they think is a fancy looking ashtray. It randomly levitates and light begins to emanate from the ashtray and as Levi and John attempt to figure out what the hell is going on, the cogs slowly start turning and eventually the two decide that the best thing to do is try to capture this event on camera and maybe try to make some much needed cash out of their shared experience.
The friendship between Levi and John feels like it's been present there forever as they put their documentary together but soon the wheels start falling off and a mixture of paranoia and mistrust slowly divides them. This is when the talking head elements of the film expands the story a bit by essentially announcing that the friendship ended disastrously and then the rest of the film slowly unravels the variables that lead to their demise.
Naturally Benson and Moorhead's onscreen chemistry is undeniable and the film really excels when the two are at it, deep in their groove and particularly during the tense scenes when both men realise that their relationship is beginning to crumble. It kind of reminded me of films like Shane Caruth's smart time-travel mystery 'Primer' from 2004 and Darren Aronofsky's debut 'Pi' from 1998. There's elements from both those films here regarding the paranoia aspect and also the mathematical equations written on walls. And there's obvious comparisons to be made involving the intimate and claustrophobic location. I do think that 'Something in the Dirt' perhaps does drag on a bit too long than is necessary and while Benson and Moorhead's performances are very watchable and engaging, there's noticeable dips in intrigue that makes the film feel even longer than it actually is.
One thing's for sure, this is a film that needs to be rewatched to fully enjoy everything that it's trying to say and the duo of Benson and Moorhead are extremely exciting voices in cinema right now.
- Gavin Logan
'Something in the Dirt' will be in UK Cinemas from 4th November and on Digital Download & Blu-ray from 5th December