Fantasia Film Festival 2020: Unearth

Farming has always been a life-long commitment, and when the economy changes, this can make a farmer’s livelihood more challenging to maintain. In Unearth, we see how the struggle can unleash desperation and the wrath of nature.

The Dolans and the Lomacks are friends and neighbors in a rural community. Kathryn (Adrienne Barbeau) is determined to sustain her corn farm and wants her son Tom (P.J. Marshall) and her granddaughter Christina (Allison McAtee), to take on the business after she’s gone. George Lomack (Marc Blucas) has a failed garage on his land and two daughters: Kim (Brooke Sorenson), a teen mom, and Heather (Rachel McKeon), who has college tuition. When a gas company approaches him for his land, he decides to take a chance for his family and debts. Kathryn cuts her ties with the Lomacks, angry that George has sold out. The company moves in, and a year later, they have a fracking rig set up, grinding through the earth. When drill hits shale, it releases a strange lifeform into the water and putting the Dolans and the Lomacks at the mercy of a creepy fungus.

Unearth establishes a sense of wide-open spaces and dread from the get-go. The sweeping landscapes of corn and nature give a sense of foreboding as we see the families struggle to stay afloat with the domino effect of capitalism and a system that forgets the humanity and nature behind it. We’ve seen the damage done in Flint, Michigan, and here the fracking industry that descended on Pennsylvania follows the same path of contamination and illness.

The cast and performances are excellent with Barbeau at the top of the list. She has and will always make a horror film that much better. The film takes a while to get going, with a lot of emphasis on character set up and relationships, but there’s plenty of horrors to go around when it does ramp up. The practical effects are well done and give us just enough body horror to be sufficiently revolted. I would have loved to see more creature effects, but during the Zoom Q & A, directors John C. Lyons and Dorota Swies mentioned their 18-day shoot and Kickstarter campaign that secured a tight deadline, so, amidst these limitations, I’d say they pulled it off. You could see the film was a labor of love during the cast chat, from filming in McAtee’s former stomping grounds in Pennsylvania to the cast and crew rallying to get a shot before sunset.

Check out this environmental horror that will make you think on Aug 30 if you’re in Canada. You can get tickets here.

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