Lionsgate // 2007 // 93 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // March 18th, 2008
The Wrath of 900 Years is About to Awake!
It's almost too much for Annie Flynn (Emmanuelle Vaugier, Saw IV), the drunken female sheriff of a small Southwestern town to take. Just as she has hunkered down for a bit of post-potent potable rest, a phone call informs her of a horrible truck accident along the rural New Mexican highway. When she arrives on the scene, the driver is missing and some strange organic material is found in the grill, which she takes over to Nodin (Tonantzin Carmelo), the local Native American botanist. In the meantime, local bigwig Rob Horn (M. C. Gainey, Lost) is angry over the loss of some cattle. Naturally, he blames the liquored up law woman for the situation. What they don't know is that a crazy scientist named Kane (Luke Goss, Blade II) has discovered an alien creature buried by a legendary tribe over 900 years ago. Upon awakening, this fiend is angry, agile, and very, very hungry. It will take everything this small-town officer has, including a massive mistake from her past, to help her save the day -- if she can.
Take some samples of Species, toss in a few obvious H. R. Giger riffs, wrap the whole thing up in a Tex-Mex sand and desert setting, and liberally baste in gore, and you've got just part of the rip-off reality of Matthew Leutwyler's sloppy Unearthed. If copying previous genre films were an art form, this movie would be a black velvet portrait of two dogs dying in a ditch. It's not that this writer/director does an unprofessional job of putting his ideas up on the screen. After all, he did helm the goofy genre comedy Dead and Breakfast back in 2004 and has recently signed on to scribble the unnecessary Creepshow remake. But since much of what he treats us to here has been done before, and better, by true masters of the macabre, this craven creature on the loose spectacle is specious at best. This is basically nothing more than Sci-Fi Channel-level terror, the CGI monster about as believable as any of that basic-cable network's bitmap beasts. The acting is equally uneven, with noted performers (Russell Means, Eddie's brother Charles Murphy) taking up space alongside semi-recognizable television talent.
But aside from some icky bloodshed, nothing really interesting happens here. Characters are set up and situations introduced, and then Leutwyler edits in some creature chaos. As the old instructions go -- lather, rinse, repeat...endlessly. The subplots involving the girl sheriff's love of booze and her rationale for same never deliver the depth Unearthed hopes for, and the Native American angle is underplayed to the point of paralysis. Scenes unfold with little or no purpose, and planted ideas (Charles Murphy's aluminum briefcase, Nodin's reason for returning to her grandfather) are left unexplained and unexplored. Had some of this wasted effort gone into the F/X, or the rationale for the monster's existence (we get some screwy DNA "bank" excuse, and that's about it), we might have bought the balderdash. But Leutwyler is too busy atmosphering up his frame with smoke, dim lighting, and unnecessary water to care. He wants Unearthed to get by on tension, suspense, fear, and outright dread. All we see, however, is the same old scare-flick storyline going through the B-movie motions. Grue can only take you so far, and this movie doesn't provide enough repugnance to save itself. As a result, Unearthed is uninteresting and uneventful.
Offered by Lionsgate as part of last year's heralded AfterDark Film Festival (subtitled "8 Movies to Die For"), the DVD of Unearthed doesn't look half bad. The 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen image is way too dark, but this is probably done on purpose. After all, the more light cast on this creature, the more obvious its fictional fakeness. Still, the transfer is top-notch, aside from a slight amount of pixelization here and there. It's nothing major. Neither is the sonic situation. The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is mediocre at best. There is a real attempt by Leutwyler to use the back speakers to suggest unseen horrors, but they never come across as anything other than worthless white noise. Aside from a few preview trailers, the only bonus content is pointless, especially when it comes to this motion picture. Instead of any film-specific extras, we get 19 minutes of "webisodes" from the Miss Horrorfest Contest. Whoopie! No one cares, especially since the decision was made and announced about six months ago.
While some may cotton to the old school shivers of this obvious Alien rip, many will wish that Unearthed had remained underground. AfterDark's tagline suggests that, every year, many films are never seen by the moviegoing public. The implication is that these efforts are just too frightening, too horrific, or intense for mainstream consumption. In the case of this monster mimicry, boredom is probably the most logical reason for its unreleased status. Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Collection of Ms. Horrorfest Contest Webisodes
* Official Site