Something in the Dirt Might Be Benson and Moorhead’s Best Movie Yet

I went into Something in the Dirt with a mix of great anticipation and slight trepidation. While I adore directing duo Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s first three films (Resolution, Spring, and The Endless), I wasn’t a huge fan of their latest effort, Synchronic. Granted, it’s grown on me since I first saw it, but I still don’t think it’s nearly as good as their other work. Because of that slight misstep, I wasn’t sure how their next film would turn out, but after getting the chance to watch it, I’m happy to report that it just might be their best work yet.

Much like The Endless, Something in the Dirt also stars Benson and Moorhead as its two lead characters, and they play Levi and John, two neighbors who one day experience a strange paranormal phenomenon in their apartment building. They have no idea what’s going on, so they try to capture the occurrence on film and make a documentary about their attempt to understand it.

That plot synopsis may sound a bit vague and undercooked, but that’s literally what this whole movie is about. While a few other characters make some very brief appearances here and there, Something in the Dirt is pretty much just John and Levi trying to figure out what they’re experiencing and then going down a rabbit hole of potential connections and meanings.

Because of that, this isn’t a traditional horror film. It doesn’t have any real scares, and the horrific imagery is kept to an absolute minimum. In that sense, it’s a lot like Benson and Moorhead’s first movie, Resolution. It’s more of a genre-bending, horror-adjacent sci-fi mystery, so if you’re looking for thrills and chills, this is not the movie for you.

A man pulling a rope while someone behind him jumps

But if you want a heady, character-driven story, then you’re going to love Something in the Dirt. For starters, Benson and Moorhead are fantastic as Levi and John, but I have to admit, I wasn’t thrilled with them at first. When the film began, they felt a bit too subdued and even a little flat. However, after a couple of scenes, I grew to love them.

See, they don’t give the kind of performances that normally come to mind when I think of great acting, but they’re just as effective. Levi and John just feel completely real, so after watching them for a bit, I almost forgot this was a movie. In fact, they felt so authentic that by about the midway point of the film, I wanted to meet these people in real life and hang out with them.

That sense of realism grounded the story and allowed me to connect with the characters on a deep level, and as I learned more about them, I just came to love them more and more. I totally bought into everything they said and did, so I enjoyed seeing them on screen no matter what was happening. Even when Something in the Dirt slowed down and risked becoming a bit boring, John and Levi propped it up and kept my eyes glued to the screen.

In addition to those great characters, the mystery in this film is also top-notch. It unfolds at a pretty slow pace, so you need to be patient with it. But if you can accept that, it’s absolutely spellbinding. As John and Levi study the strange phenomenon in their building, they draw from real science as well as some genuine pseudoscientific ideas (in other words, ideas that are actually floating around in the real world, so they weren’t just made up for this movie) to create a fascinating string of explanations and connections that will have you on the edge of your seat wondering just what the hell could be going on here.

A man looking pensive

Their entire quest is absolutely captivating, but I have to warn you, the way it all comes together in the end is definitely going to be divisive. I won’t spoil what happens, but I will say that Something in the Dirt stays messy right up until the end, so don’t expect it to tie things up in a nice, neat manner with a bow on top.

Instead, the third act seems more interested in thematic closure than narrative closure, so if that’s not your thing, you’ll probably walk away from this film pretty disappointed. But if you’re okay with that, then I think you’re really going to like what this movie has to say. It’s all about our intense desire to find meaning and sense in the world, even to the point of potentially deceiving ourselves and creating it where it doesn’t exist, and in my opinion, that theme is sorely needed in our culture today. We all fall into that trap sometimes, so it’s good to have a movie like Something in the Dirt that can remind us of it and bring us back down to earth.

When you combine that great message with the excellent characters and the captivating mystery, it adds up to one hell of a film, so I’m happy to report that Something in the Dirt is vintage Benson and Moorhead. In fact, like I said before, it just might be their best work yet. I still need more time to let the movie sink in before I definitively make that judgment, but as of this writing, it’s a legit contender for that honor.

Something in the Dirt will hit limited theaters on November 4, and then it’ll be released on VOD on November 22.

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today.

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