An eerily entertaining supernatural sci-fi comedy from directors Moorhead and Benson where two new neighbours stumble across some supernatural activity in an L.A. apartment and are determined to get it on camera to make some money regardless of the unknown danger of the paranormal powers at work.
The story begins with Levi (Justin Benson) waking up on the floor of his new, dilapidated, apartment. He’s just moved in and there’s a strange creaking sound and a dripping ceiling. Things aren’t all what they seem. He sees John (Aaron Moorhead) his neighbour sitting outside and goes out to chat to him. They’re kind of opposites, Levi is the grungy long haired barman type trying to make it in L.A. and John is the more clean-cut photographer relying on his second job to make ends meet, but they do share the same unfulfilled work-life experience.
John helps Levi move in and they discover the strange paranormal activity happening in the apartment (some floating objects and strange reflecting lights). Both are keen on filming the supernatural activity to profit from it. As an ex-maths teacher John has been reading up on some mathematical theories and when he discovers some identical symbols all around the city he starts to develop a theory this could be a much wider city phenomena. This sets the two of them off trying to join the dots between various conspiracy theories about aliens whilst all the while trying to capture the evidence on video. The film meanwhile cuts to documentary style interviews talking retrospectively about what happened and it quickly transpires that things don’t turn out well for both of them.
Written, directed, produced and performed by Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson the story makes for a quirky sci-fi comedy with some interesting layers to it. The film within a film idea, having the guys making a documentary, provides plenty of opportunity for some indie filmmaking in-jokes, whilst the mockumentary style interviews cleverly give the audience the impression this could actually be a true story. All the while the two main characters bounce off of one another, both are a bit edgy and you’re never really sure how scrupulous either is as the growingly bizarre events unfold.
The cinematography builds the atmosphere brought together with lots of quick edits. Not afraid to shoot into the light to capture the interior apartment shots and the L.A. sunshine along with the glaring paranormal activity, the guys even suggest the name for their documentary should be “Something In The Light”. The visual effects subtly create the illusion of the paranormal activity without ever going overboard. Who needs a flying saucer when you’ve got an equally impressive flying crystal ashtray. Similarly the sound design is quietly efficient in adding tension when needed reaching a rousing crescendo with a uniquely performed rendition of Beethoven’s 9th.
‘Moorhead and Benson’ are fast on their way to gaining a cult indie status as writers and directors, if they weren’t there already. Here they show their diversity by playing the two main characters, showing the kind of manic chemistry on screen that suggests they have a lot of fun making movies together.
It has a ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ sensibility that builds the suspense and tension. Entertaingly humorous, loaded with good visual gags it manages to draw you into the supernatural mystery despite its convoluted assortment of theories.
Something In The Dirt will be on Digital Download + Blu-ray from 5th December.
Film: Something In The Dirt
Director: Aaron Moorhead & Justin Benson
Genre: Sci-Fi, Horror
Stars: Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson, Sarah Adina Smith & Vinny Curran
Run time: 1hr 56mins