Yes, I used the word ‘visionary’ above and yes, I do mean it. I don’t like using it, I think it’s a word that is thrown around much too often, but I also strongly believe directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead are, in fact, visionary.
Something In The Dirt is a return to their roots, sort of. The directing duo also star in the film, playing Levi (Benson) and John (Moorhead), new neighbours who catch a glimpse of something potentially supernatural in Levi’s apartment and become obsessed with capturing it on camera.
The film has a lot of similarities with Jordan Peele’s Nope and without a doubt, both would make for a fascinating double bill, but Something In The Dirt is a very different take on our obsessive natures and the need to document everything. It’s a much closer look at individual impulses and the dynamic between two strangers as they embark on a journey together. It’s also a clear love letter to LA and filmmaking. It’s even dedicated to making movies with your friends.
It’s sometimes hard to pinpoint exactly what makes a film or a piece of music so enticing and powerful. Sometimes there’s no one reason, it’s more that the piece of art is somehow the perfect storm of elements that make it appeal to someone personally while also being competent in a general sort of way, making it a success.
Perhaps that’s the magic of Something In The Dirt. It does everything just right for me and every element was in harmony with my personal values and ideals. I was constantly compelled by the narrative and the characters, but it also gave me something to think about, much like their previous films. Like with Spring, The Endless and Synchronic, my fascination and engagement with the film didn’t end once the credits started rolling. If anything, it only grew stronger in the hours and days after I finished watching it.
The film also has a strong sense of wonder. When Levi first encounters the strange light phenomenon in his apartment, he is frozen. Partially from fear, but mostly from sheer wonder. The pair’s instant reaction is to try and capture the phenomenon on camera, rather than run away in fear. Something In The Dirt also feels very personal, it has an intimate feel to it that lends it some ingenuity and authenticity.
But most of all, I love how it fits into Benson and Moorhead’s whole filmography. It’s incredibly satisfying to look at their entire body of work and see the overarching themes of time, humanity and finding meaning in your life. Something In The Dirt fits in there neatly and after 2021’s Synchronic, this feels like a return to the very small scale indie filmmaking that’s more concerned with the humanity of the characters than the events it portrays.
Something In The Dirt will probably divide audiences. Some will say not enough happens, but this isn’t a plot-driven film, it’s a character-driven one. All the tension starts and ends with Levi and John rather than the supernatural. The potentially alien phenomenon simply provides the lens through which Benson and Moorhead can examine the human condition.
For me, this is another win from the most exciting filmmakers working today. Visually striking, with a human core, Something In The Dirt is a future classic in the making. This is awe-inspiring filmmaking on an intimate scale and hopefully we’ll see plenty more films like this from Benson and Moorhead.
Something In The Dirt will be in UK Cinemas from 4th November and on Digital Download + Blu-ray from 5th December