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Saturday, August 29, 2020

[Fantasia Review] ‘Unearth’ Emphasizes Rural Drama Over Eco-Horror

From atomic monsters to “nature attacks” features, horror has long explored humankind’s effect on the environment. As natural disasters seem to be on the upswing, it’s no surprise that eco-based horror is also on the rise. The latest centers around fracking, the controversial technique in which water, sand, and chemicals are injected into shale rock at high pressure to recover gas and oil. It’s controversial because of the high costs of transporting the necessary water, the potential for tremors, and the possibility of carcinogenic chemicals contaminating surrounding groundwater. Unearth touts itself as a fracking horror story, exploring the idea of contaminated water through a rural town lens, but it bides its time exposing any genre elements.

Single parent George Lomack (Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Marc Blucas) struggles to keep his family afloat. A mechanic by trade, more and more of his regular customers turn to big companies that charge less. He turns to the oil and gas industry, eager to acquire his farmland for fracking purposes. Warnings from Kathryn Dolan (Adrienne Barbeau) and her family at the neighboring farm go unheeded, and tensions begin to mount between them. Between a dying way of life and the fracking’s catastrophic side effects, they’ll all be in a fight for their lives.

Directed and edited by John C. Lyons & Dorota Swies, much of the film’s focus is on getting deeply acquainted with every member of both families. George’s hardships as a provider, his secret affair with widower Christina Dolan (Allison McAtee), Christina’s friendships with George’s adult daughters, and the Dolan family dynamics are all explored in dramatic detail. While it paints an exact, intimate look at rural life and the people directly affected by the fracking, there’s no trace of horror for the first two-thirds of the film. It’s to the point where you might forget this is a horror film at all.

Once the final act hits, there are fantastic body horror moments, but it’s still fleeting, without much energy, and fizzles out as quickly as it came. Lyons and Swies are so hyper-focused on showing the adversity rural communities face that drives them to make these decisions, and the human cost, that the rest feels underdeveloped. In genre films with such a gradual, meditative build without any hints of horror, the payoff won’t be enough for many.

The acting is restrained, matching the quietness of this small-scaled feature, and the cinematography is fantastic. Lyons and Swies do manage to capture rural life well. Restraint seems to be the keyword for Unearth, though. The passing glimpses of well-executed body horror moments in the third act tease an entirely different, more thrilling film that never comes. For an entire movie about how a dying way of life can lead to irrevocable decisions that affect generations, it feels more appropriate to categorize Unearth as a drama. Much of the conflict comes from the slow emotional and psychological deterioration of the characters, and the way Lyons and Swies approach it couldn’t be further removed from horror.

In terms of fracking-inspired horror, there’s still a lot left to be mined from the subject.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3629156/fantasia-review-unearth-emphasizes-rural-drama-eco-horror/

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