There is a whole lot of independent horror being made right now.
The tools needed to make a good looking production are now readily available thanks to better cameras and home editing equipment. The end result is both good and bad. Good because now anyone can afford to make a horror film. And bad because, well, now anyone can make a horror film, and that includes the people that just don’t have a clue.
We get a lot of independent movies arriving on the Love Horror doorstep and it’s a real mixed bag. Even the established distributors still send us stinkers from time to time.
But there was something in The Unearthing which made it clear from the start that this wasn’t just another one of those nonsensical home-made efforts.
The Unearthing is the debut feature for 17 year old (yeah, 17 years old!) writer-director Tristan James Jensen and although it comes in at just under an hour in length, it’s immediately obvious that this guy has high aspirations.
The film opens as teenager Autumn rides with her dad to a rental property in Stillwater, Minnesota, where they’ll spend their summer. With Autumn’s dad working long hours, she’s left to explore the area on her own and she does this thanks to the appearance of a confident young neighbour, Charlotte. She’s eager for Autumn get out, see the town and meet a local boy called Parker.
The trio hang out and fool around and everything seems playful until they have a paranormal experience or two. This leads to some research into the area and brings to light some dark secrets that lie beneath the tranquil exterior of the sleepy town. And behind those dark secrets is an evil entity that needs to be pacified.
The first thing that strikes you about the unearthing is the level of production. For a film that was produced on a low budget by young, small and inexperienced team, it’s very impressive.
Yes, at times some of the shots are over exposed and there are moments when the sound levels are a little out, but considering the length of the film it’s very impressive indeed. It’s made obvious that the crew put their all in, paying real attention to detail and making every effort to get things right. And for me, this immediately places the film above 50% of the horror that’s being pumped out at the moment where visual/audio quality is concerned.
The acting is also surprisingly good. The main cast members are young but play their roles with confidence and emotion, and the supporting roles by the adults are also hard to fault for a production of this size.
However, creating a perfect film first time round is impossible, so there are obviously some areas where improvement is needed. And the areas that are weakest are the usual places you’d expect an indie movie to fall short at. Story and script.
There’s nothing to dislike about the tale that’s told in The Unearthing and for the most part everything makes sense. But after a well paced and promising opening, the story starts to slip a little after the first paranormal encounter. Too much time is then spent researching, exploring and explaining. What the viewer really wants at this stage is to be plunged deeper into the mysterious spookiness that they just had a brief taster of.
So with some rethinking of the plot, some tightening up and perhaps some more thought on how to make the scares more impactful, the film would be more exciting.
Scripts are hard work, and managing to create convincing, conversational dialogue for a number of very different characters is bound to cause problems.
For the most part, it all works fine but if the film were to be finessed, giving the cast some more natural and interesting things to say would definitely improve the film.
The Unearthing marks an important period on horror production. I never thought that I would see a movie of this standard made by a 17 year old, and if this is what the future of horror looks like, we have some exciting times ahead.
If all the great budding film makers out there can continue to up their game like this, then we have some really amazing films on the horizon.