Something In The Dirt

Something In The Dirt
Something In The Dirt
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If you thought that Marvel might have forced Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead to leave their low-fi weirdnesses behind, Something In The Dirt is here to tell you you’re wrong. After directing this year’s Moon Knight, the duo (who star in, direct, produce and edit; Moorhead also serves as DP; Benson wrote the script and used his apartment as the main location) have returned to their indie roots with another shoestring sci-fi chamber piece.

Levi (Benson), a barman with no direction, and John (Moorhead), an apocalyptic evangelist who has several too many, become accidental documentarians when a levitating ashtray suggests all might not be well in Levi’s newly rented flat. Realising they could turn around their struggling fortunes if they were to prove the existence of the paranormal (“How much do you think Netflix pays for one of these?”), they set up some cameras and decide to find out what’s going on.

Fans of Benson and Moorhead’s brand of sci-fi noodle-baker will not be surprised to hear that Something In The Dirt is much more than a bargain-basement ghost hunt. Like their twisty debut Resolution or time-twisting pseudo-sequel The Endless, this trippy brew sends us careening through a wormhole made up of explorations into gravity and electromagnetism; ominous tattoos; ruminations on fatalism and being alive; a DIY radiation suit made from a shower curtain.

As we go on, things get weirder: floating furniture gives way to an interdimensional succulent; there is a cult based on triangles; Beethoven lived in a cupboard. And while everything spirals further out of control, so the film picks apart – gleefully poking at – the flimsy ties holding together Levi and John’s relationship as it archly probes at how crack-ridden their attempts at collaborative filmmaking (the documentary-within-a-film pulling back yet another curtain) are, while sticking a skewer through America’s sick love of tin-foil conspiracy theories.

This film is dedicated to making movies with your friends’ reads the credits dedication; Something In The Dirt is exactly that – a twisted comment on the creative process as much as it is an ode to it. But after hitting the big time with the MCU (they’re also lined up to direct Loki series two) and roping in A-listers for 2019’s time-spinner Synchronic, it’s heartening to see Benson and Moorhead haven’t lost their freewheeling indie spirit, bouncing back with their most unapologetically batshit flight of fancy yet. It’s too long by a few minutes, and occasionally suffocates under its own ideas for half-an-hour or so at the end there, but if you’re after a ballsy, open-ended head-trip wrapped up in musings about what-it-is-to-be-alive-on-this-planet then look no further than this particular flying quartz ashtray.

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