Written and directed by Matthew Leutwyler (the man behind Dead And Breakfast), Unearthed strives to work on the same level as films like The Descent or even Aliens but winds up closer to House Of The Dead only without the unintentional comic relief. Granted, there aren't any CGI zombies, but the comparisons can still be made - sloppy directing, wafer thin characters, haphazard editing, coated with a fair bit of gore in hopes of distracting the viewer from the mess that the movie is.
Pretty Emmanuelle Vaugier (who looks like a young Lina Romay) plays Sheriff Annie Flynn, an alcoholic trusted to police a small desert town. Annie spends most of her time answering to the cattle men in the area (one of whom is played by M. C Gainey) and generally doesn't have to do a whole lot to bring home her paycheck until a strange track accident cuts off the main highway out of town. Annie heads off to investigate and finds a strange critter piece stuck to the grill. She takes it home to her botanist friend who runs a DNA test on it and tells her that it isn't a known organism.
Meanwhile, a few travelers - a smart ass black dude (Charlie Murphy), two blondes on their way to Hollywood (Whitney Able and Miranda Bailey) and a hunky guy (Tommy Dewey) with truck problems - who can't get out of town hole up for the night at a service station. Of course, it turns out that an ancient bug monster thing has been hiding underground in the area for a few centuries now and has awoken from its slumber to terrorize the area. This pleases nobody except for the maniacal Kale (Luke Goss), who enjoys terrorizing everyone and slapping people around. Eventually the Sheriff, who is wrestling with some demons from her past and desperately searching for redemption, gets a chance to do something good and make a difference, and maybe kill a few bug monsters along the way.
OK, where do we start.... the gore is neat. If you've ever wanted to see Charlie Murphy's head carved up this is the movie for you. A few other disposable bit part players meet some noticeably nasty ends but really, that's all there is to make you notice this film in the first place. The acting is mediocre, the characters are hollow clichés and the plot is uninspired and pretty predictable. The bug monsters look a little too much like Giger's aliens and the fact that the film is edited in such a choppy, ultra fast manner and that the last third is shot entirely in night vision (read: green tint) ensures that not only is the film uninteresting, but it's not particularly enjoyable to look at either. The end result? Unearthed is boring. You'll find yourself hoping that the girls will get naked or that Charlie Murphy will tell us some stories about playing basketball with Prince, just to put a bit of energy into the picture but that doesn't happen. This picture feels like it was phoned in by all involved.
Unearthed arrives on DVD in a 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Aside from the fact that almost the entire last third of the film has been shot in 'night vision' and as such has an annoying green tint throughout, this transfer isn't bad. There is a bit of grain on the picture and some mild print damage in the form of the odd speck here and there but you have to look for it to notice it. A bit of edge enhancement and some minor aliasing is also present but there aren't any problems with compression artifacts and until the 'night vision' effect is turned on, the color reproduction is decent.
The sole audio option on this DVD is an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound with subtitles available in English or Spanish, with closed captioning provided in English only. Aside from a couple of scenes where the dialogue is a bit low in the mix, this is a fine track. The rears are used well during the monster attack scenes and bass response is pretty strong. Aside from the aforementioned sporadic moments the levels are fine and there are no problems with hiss or distortion to note.
Lionsgate provides animated menus, chapter stops, some previews for coming attractions that play when the disc loads, and a collection of footage from the Miss Horrorfest Contest Webisodes that were used to promote the After Dark Horror Fest and which seemingly appear on the all releases in the series this year. Here, various goth-ish gals in silly outfits parade around various locations and visit strange places to see who is the one most worthy of becoming Miss Horrorfest. It's all pretty retarded.
Unearthed is not only derivative and uninspired, it's dull. The gore scenes are plentiful enough that those who thrive on effects work might get something out of it but everyone else is advised to pass on this one.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.