Attending film festivals, if you do them right, almost always end up with at least one title defying a true review. Did you like it? Did you hate it? Could it be both? When you see a movie like this, it’s kind of an exciting premise. Something in the Dirt is, not counting The Worst Person in the World, the first thing I saw at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Even now, as it’s literally my final review from the fest, I’m still not certain where I fall on it. By the time we get to the end of this, perhaps I’ll have figured it out? Read on to see for yourself…
Something in the Dirt wants to comment on our current need to confirm our own opinions via any means necessary. That’s a good premise for a film, even if this one goes in some wild directions. I’m still not sure if I liked it or not, and while I can’t overtly recommend it, I do very much admire what it’s trying to do.
Levi Danube (Justin Benson) is the newest resident of a little apartment complex in the Hollywood Hills. He just needs it for a bit, as he’s planning to fully leave Los Angeles, but one day as he’s moving in he quickly strikes up a friendly rapport with his new neighbor John Daniels (Aaron Moorhead). Before long, they start bonding, and you can tell that they might soon be pals. Then, something incredible happens in one of their apartments one day, setting them on a very new path.
When Levi and John bear witness to something impossible in Levi’s apartment, they’re initially frightened. Then, that terror gives way to curiosity, before turning into an opportunity. This phenomenon could be documented, which in turn would not only make them some money, but give their lives purpose. As they set out to prove the supernatural, they begin going down rabbit hole after rabbit hole, with any and every conspiracy theory on the table. Where does it all stand and end? Well, good luck figuring that out.
Both Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead are effectively shaggy here. Benson gets to be a bit of a dolt, while Moorhead portrays someone perhaps not quite as brilliant as he’s convinced he is. Their chemistry is excellent though, as you’d imagine considering their real working relationship. This is a two hander, but small roles are also filled by Sarah Adina Smith, Vinny Curran, Gille Klabin, Megan Rosati, and more.
Also serving as the filmmakers, Benson and Moorhead truly bring a DIY vibe to it all. They share directing and editing duties, with Benson writing and Moorhead handling the cinematography. It all makes Something in the Dirt easy to appreciate. Understanding or liking it, however? That’s a bit harder. The shagginess of the performances also extends to the filmmaking, and that makes it a bit of a chore about midway through. Also, without sticking the landing, you somewhat wonder if it was worthy of the time investment?
Something in the Dirt may not have fully landed with me, but you may love it. It’s the sort of movie that the Sundance Film Festival tends to reveal to some as a hidden treasure. I’m in the minority here, to be sure, but I continue to be excited for what Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead do next. I know they have a masterpiece up their sleeve, without question, and they’re just getting closer and closer with every time out.