Horrorfest '07: Unearthed (US - DVD R1)
Gabe Powers can't recall the last good Horrorfest title, but this one looks cool...
Unearthed plays like a decent made for Sci-Fi Channel monster movie. Derivative but sort of effective creature design? Check. Arch and sketchy characters that might as well carry death order numbers above their heads? Check. Pretty girls in tight clothes? Check. Just enough gore to satiate the horror fans, but not too much to upset the FCC? Check. Conveniently covering up the scripts more costly elements by having them occur off screen? Check. It also fulfils the Lionsgate STV standards of over-editing and shaky cameras.
Most of us probably weren’t finding ourselves in dire need of another monster movie featuring a group of misfits trapped by circumstance and forced to fight off a supernatural creature, but if we’ve got to watch one we could certainly do worse then writer/director Matthew Leutwyler’s modest little feature. We could find ourselves in the presence of worse actors, worse special effects, and a worse script. Leutwyler over does the modern flare thing, but he’s got enough basic skill to effectively emulate the more classic horror masters.
Basically Unearthed is just another Alien clone, complete with strong, tank top wearing heroines and an icky creature life cycle that requires human host bodies. The desert setting and anthropology/archaeology angle kind of reminded me of certain episodes of The X-Files, in a good way, but the allegorical elements are really awkward. The special effects are pretty impressive and the creature looks pretty cool, but Unearthed doesn’t rate as high on the scare scale as any of the Alien films, it lacks the full out fun of other purposefully derivative monster movies Tremors, The Blob (’88) or Slither, and it doesn’t have the emotional punch of Pumpkin Head. Besides its derivative nature, the films biggest problem is the script, though interestingly enough not the plot or characters.
I know that exposition isn’t an easy thing to write in any realistic or organic fashion, but there are few things as grating as exposition for exposition’s sake. The only thing that tops it in my book is stilted dialogue. Leutwyler’s dialogue isn’t realistic or particularly original, but it flows pretty smoothly from most of the actor’s gullets, it’s the exposition that stops things. Our sheriff’s problems are told effectively enough in brief flashbacks and in the townsfolk’s eyes, we don’t need the first thirty minutes of dialogue surrounding her to be about her past, especially when it ends up having little sway on the final film. The science part of Leutwyler’s science fiction is fudgey even by After Dark Horrorfest standards, leading to more long bits of exposition that none of the characters could’ve possibly known given the circumstances.
Unearthed is a really dark film, and this DVD doesn’t do a lot to help out. Details are reasonably crisp and textures reasonably smooth, but the highlights are so dim that it was often nearly impossible to tell what was going on. On top of this the blacks aren’t so much black as very dark blue. I suppose the good news is that none of the highlights flare out too much and edge enhancement is almost non-existent. There’s a green tint to most of the film which show minimal compression noise, and when properly lit the other colours look clean enough as well, though warm colours do display some artefacts.
This is another surprising Dolby Digital 5.1 mix from the 2007 Horrorfest. Nature sounds and ambient music are relatively consistent throughout the stereo and surround channels, and directional effects mostly work according to their screen placements. Some of the sound effects are ineffectively mixed into the track. The screams are usually taken directly from a sound effects CD, the simple sounds of tooling about with tools is too loud, but guns sound pretty perfect. The dialogue is clear, though through no fault of the sound mixers I had real trouble telling the difference between the voices of the two lead actresses. The music doesn’t really contain any cues or melody, but adds an effective layer of ambient menace to the fear lacking film, and features a whole lot of extra bass.
Another barebones Horrorfest release—nothing but trailers and Miss Horrorfest webisodes.
Unearthed is a perfectly average creature feature. It looks, acts, and sounds like a dozen better films, but doesn’t embarrass itself with general ineptitude either. I could’ve done with more scares and less shaking camera, but commend the budget title’s less then budget effects. This DVD is disappointingly bare on extras (I’d like to hear the direct explain himself), and the video quality is often too dark to see what’s going on, but I was nominally impressed with the Dolby Digital soundtrack.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 18th March 2008
Disc Type: Single side, single layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Extras: Trailers, Miss Horrorfest Webisodes
Easter Egg: No
Director: Matthew Leutwyler
Cast: M.C. Gainey, Russell Means, Miranda Bailey, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Luke Goss
Genre: Action and Horror
Length: 93 minutes
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