Chattanooga Film Festival: Something In the Dirt (2022)

Directors and stars Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (Benson also wrote the script) also made SpringThe EndlessSynchronic and Resolution — as well as episodes of Marvel’s Moon Knight and Loki as well as Archive 81 and The Twilight Zone together.

This time, they play Levi and John, two neighbors in a Los Angeles apartment building who discover a paranormal event and decide to use what they’ve experienced to become rich and famous. The only problem is that dealing with the unknown — whether supernatural or between two people that barely know one another — can be dangerous.

This is a small movie with big ideas, a way of filming necessitated by being created in COVID-19 isolation, but what emerges is the idea that within ourselves and the world that there are so many layers yet peeling back those very same layers can have destructive results.

Shot with a crew of three — Benson, Moorhead and producing partner David Lawson Jr. — this is a hang-out film of two people confronting a gravitational anomaly within the walls of a no-lease apartment complex that seemingly also keeps them within its gravitational orbit, too focused on making it or working to escape but trapped forever within the same four walls.

From seeing the same shape throughout Los Angeles to followers of Pythagoras and cats using parasites to increase mental illness, there are secrets within every story told. There are even conspiracies between the two leads, as Levi has a criminal record that he doesn’t want to discuss and John is part of a religion that could very well be called a cult, even if his  homosexuality may not allow him to be fully part of the sect he’s grown up in.

I saw someone comment that this is Under the Silver Lake for poor people and that makes sense. It never reaches the mania of that film, but it does expand in ever stranger circles, using multiple film techniques and media — even old home movies — to get to the truth, which even by the end of the film is only known by one of the leads and there’s no way he can explain it to the other.

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