Saturday, November 17, 2007

Unearthed (2007)

Note: This review is part of my coverage of Horrorfest II.


Unfortunately, this movie works a lot better on paper. It's an interesting story, but it comes off as being quite an amateur production. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but there's good amateur, and there's bad amateur. Let's take a look at what we're dealing with first. Here's the backstory: an alien was sent to collect DNA samples from all sorts of Earth life. Despite being a rather hideous creature, it supposedly lived in peace with the Anasazi tribe for awhile, until for some reason they tried poisoning it with a Uranium trailmix. The creature annihilated the tribe and somehow (I'm not clear on all the details) ended up encased in the Earth for many years. Until now, when it's been unearthed.

This movie owes a lot to Tremors (the setting of an isolated desert town attacked by an ancient monster), the X-Files (gooey alien in the desert with ties to Indian tribes), and the Aliens series (although the monster isn't nearly as similar to the xenomorph as you may have heard, it is true that one scene in particular was lifted straight out of Alien 3). It's too bad it doesn't live up to any of those titles. The action is way too hyperactive, the actors are less than convincing, and the shaky camera which starts out appropriately in the action sequences begins to seep into every scene. It really gets ridiculous. The shaky camera effect might be effective when you want the audience to believe the footage is being shot on a camera, for example by one of the characters. But when you're doing plain as day normal shots, pan & scan, anything, and it's all shaky as all get-out, it really makes you think that this was filmed by an amateur in somebody's backyard. The monster's CG motion shots were obvious, as well.

In addition to that, some things just seem hard to swallow. There's an apparently Australian roughneck archaeologist who, despite not being a criminal or a doctor, doesn't seem to have any problems tearing into a freshly dead body with a huge bowie knife, looking for alien worms. The truck driver who gets to be the first kill loves his dogs so much, that not only does he wear a t-shirt with his two dogs pictured on the front, but he also makes his dogs each wear a doggy shirt with a picture of his face on it. (Rolls eyes). Another thing that bugged me is how a single tanker sprawled across the road is able to isolate the entire freaking town. Maybe it's possible, but gee...I was pretty sure that road was a throughway, considering the trucker regularly passed through the town, not to mention the travelers who happen upon the town trying to get further west. Shouldn't there at least be a second way out? Curiously, the sheriff in this story is a 20-year old female alcoholic. She was involved in some kind of tragic accident where an Indian girl died, but even by the end, when they actually let the flashback play out, you're still not exactly sure what happened. Supposedly, she didn't kill the girl, but took the fall for it. Who was she trying to protect? Why would she throw her dream away for that? Needless to say, the whole town hates her and is prepared to vote her out of the job at the next town meeting.

I dunno what to say. The execution just doesn't do the idea justice. Yeah, it was interesting to see, but I would have to say that I don't recommend it, primarily for the shaky camera work alone. It's just the principle of it. Who watched this movie and okay'ed the shooting for it? The only answer is no budget. Well it's too bad they couldn't find somebody with a steadier arm. I'll bet the cameraman must have drunk as much as the sheriff character was notorious for. I feel bad ripping on this title, I mean it's not like it ruined my experience or anything, I still had fun. It's just that you win some and you lose some.

I know Horrorfest's "too graphic for regular audiences" claim has been debunked, and this movie is bad enough not to get a regular screening on that basis alone, but if I had to pick out a reason why this movie might be deemed "too graphic" it would definitely be for the explicit scenes of evisceral gore - human and bovine.

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