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  Unearth There's Something In The Water
Year: 2020
Director: John C. Lyons, Dorota Swies
Stars: Adrienne Barbeau, Mark Blucas, Allison McAtee, Brooke Sorenson, Rachel McKeon, P.J. Marshall, Monica Wyche, Chad Conley, Lauren Valentine, Benajmin Sheeler, Ryan Ball, Emily Askin, Alex Michael Haase
Genre: Horror, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: The Dolans and the Lomacks live as farmers on this land in Pennsylvania, but times have been growing tougher as the years have worn on, and the matriarch of the Dolans, Kathryn (Adrienne Barbeau), is looking over this decline with a critical eye, almost blaming both families for their perceived mismanagement. Meanwhile George Lomack (Mark Blucas) tries to make ends meet by working as a mechanic, but he has been losing what few customers he has by trying to generate more money from them than they are willing to offer, and this is sending him to the bottle. But there is a lifeline: an oil company has been in the area, asking if they can buy their land for drilling - could this be a way out?

It is no secret that farmers across the globe are suffering as the environment is damaged and productivity is in danger, as all the while the massive corporations loom to snap up their land and produce: is it any wonder suicide rates among farmers have reached an all-time high? But would you watch a movie on that subject, or would you rather sit down with a horror flick instead? The directors of Unearth posed the question, how about both? Making an issue-led drama that had a remarkable last act turnaround into shocker territory might not be everyone's idea of taking a pressing subject seriously, but here it proved unexpectedly effective since, after all, the effects of these oil giants exploiting the struggling farmers is indeed horrific.

It starts desperate, then the circumstances turn dire: imagine if the much-lauded Jessica Lange rural drama Country ended up with Jessica and her family mutating and going nutzoid and you would have a strong notion of what you were in for if you gave Unearth a chance. If there was a slight soap opera quality to the early stages, or anyway a prestige drama you would see on television with the cast giving it their best shot at an Emmy, the horror was nevertheless creeping in, so that when it lived up to its genre it was not unexpected, exactly - this was being pitched to the chiller fans - but you may be taken aback at how organically the ghastliness emerged from the seemingly mundane. Mundane but clear-eyed and sympathetic, for the actual villains are ones we never really see.

Sure, the oil company are a constant presence, but in the background until their drilling "unearths" something nasty that gets into the now-dusty air and water supply. Although the film utilised a certain hyperbole in its gruesomeness, there was a truth to what they were imparting, as there is a dreadful environmental toll being taken on America's countryside, and not only America's, either. The performances were gritty, overall: Barbeau stole the show as the vinegary Kathryn, but Allison McAtee and Rachel McKeon deserved a mention as daughters who tried to better themselves but were dragged back into this Hell. As a metaphor, it was heavy handed, but who wanted a light subtle wit when you were watching a horror movie that truly committed to the horrible, and the fact we had gotten to know these victims through their increasingly ominous coughing and self-destructive behaviour resulted in a powerful ending with an ominous "You're next!" conclusion. Obviously, this was trying to appeal to two different audiences, but if there was any overlap at all, it shouldn't fall between two stools. Music by Jane Saunders.

[Signature Entertainment presents Unearth on DVD and Digital Platforms 28th June 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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