Most horror films have a reveal moment. Sometimes, it happens right out of the gate, sometimes during the second act, sometimes it’s more of a creeping terror and suspicion that only gets revealed at the end. There’s no industry standard of when you should have that reveal and slow burns are more common now than a movie full of jumpscares. You have time to introduce your characters’ backstories and get familiar with them before the scary stuff really jumps out.

(Source: Fantasia Film Festival)

Unearth was directed by John C. Lyons and Dorota Swies. It manages an impressive cast with Adrienne Barbeau, Marc Blucas, P.J. Marshall, Allison McAtee, Rachel McKeon, Brooke Sorenson and Monica Wyche. The story follows two neighboring families struggling to keep their farms alive. We learn about their interactions, their past and what each of them think they can do to make ends meet in the future.

George Lomack (Marc Blucas, who’s also a producer) has tried everything and in a desperate attempt to make sure he can keep supporting his family, signs a contract to allow a fracking company named “Patriot” to start drilling to find gas. The movie takes some time developing each character and revealing a few family secrets. Kathryn Dolan (Adrienne Barbeau) disapproves of George’s decision but Kathryn’s son Tom (P.J. Marshall) is considering selling the farm himself. Christina Dolan (Allison McAtee) and Heather Lomack (Rachel McKeon) have been childhood friends forever, but they’re both keeping secrets from each other that could risk their friendship.

The stories of both families really take the spotlight of the film and although compelling, they seem to paint the entire picture. It’s only as everyone starts feeling the effects of whatever the fracking drill seems to shake loose from the earth that we get to see the movie step onto the horror genre. I wasn’t timing it, but it really feels very late in the game to veer into horror territory. The film’s length is about an hour with thirty minutes, but it does feel a lot longer than that.

Recommended with reservations. Horror films with character development are always welcome, but this one is a drama with a horror finale. Given the tonality of the film against big companies, you know well in advance to expect consequences. Once they escalate to full blown creepy territory, it feels like the movie has been running its wheels in a different direction. Or at least that’s what it felt to me. I legitimately felt the movie’s tone called for a different finale. Your mileage might vary.

That will do for now.