AW Kautzer's Film Review Fantasia Film Fest Film

Unearth – Fantasia Film Festival 2020


Economic Hardships are not the only horrifying thing in the farmland of Unearth.

What’s described as a Horror film about the Fracking industry that is tearing apart the single farmer in the Midwest is not your conventional horror film.  Methodical and exactly Unearth takes its time to reveal its play. 

Two families are in the midst of an emotional and financial crisis.  Both have been offered an all-too-good-to-be-true deal by a Natural Gas Company to buy their land at a good price with “royalties” to follow.  One family takes this offer and the other chooses to fight on.  As the Company begins to dig for riches (aka Fracking the land), this comes at a heavy cost.  A heavier cost than the destruction of the land, and the air surrounding them.  As the families begin to tensely blame one another and emotional tensions and crisis come to a boil, something altogether otherworldly begins to make its presence known. Something that seems to fight back at the destruction done by not only the Gas Company but these families.  

Unearth is less of a horror film and more of a dark family drama.  Yes, there are horrific elements but those only manifest themselves in the final thirty minutes.  The film taken as a whole is more a study of characters under pressure.  These two families are struggling and for the most part, being torn asunder by not only financial issues but the kind of life choices that befall the unlucky.  Teenage pregnancy, vast unpaid medical bills, a failing auto shop business, the cost of college, the death of loved ones are the real horrors here.  The fact that the film deals with them in such realistic dire terms… even more so.

The cast is resoundingly good but co-leads Adrienne Barbeau and Marc Blucas do career-best work here.  Barbeau as the Matriarch trying to hold onto her ideals has never been as good.  The actor has always been relegated to genre (elevated, yes) but here she is given a role that’s as meaty as it is heartbreaking.  Watching Barbeau’s character slowly realize the fight is not going to end her way, though it should, is the kind of soul searching work we don’t see often enough. 

Blucas (who also produced) playing the Patriarch that makes the deal with the devil is ounce for ounce as good as Barbeau.  Neither is right or wrong but Blucas plays the character as a father and young grandfather trying to do what’s best by his. Only realizing that he’s been sold a bill of phony goods and literally did not read the fine print.

One does see that all the evil that is manifested in a nightmarish nature fights back the last thirty as necessary. One wishes that Unearth was allowed to be played out as a dark family drama or had fully gone into mother nature as evil premise from the get-go.  No matter, Unearth remains a powerful drama with elements of horror.  

Unearth is playing Fantasia August 25th and August 20th

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