Unearthed (2007)


Reviewed by The Foywonder

Starring Emmanuelle Vaugier, Luke Goss, Charlie Murphy, M.C. Gainey, Tonantzin Carmelo, Beau Garrett, Russell Means, Tommy Dewey

Written & Directed by Matthew Leutwyler

Distributed by After Dark Films and Lionsgate Home Entertainment

I couldn’t help but get the weird feeling that writer-director Matthew Leutwyler (Dead & Breakfast) must have really loved Uwe Boll’s Alone in the Dark or at least thought it sucked but dug the film’s monsters because the monster in his movie is a bit similar to the Alone in the Dark monsters – roughly the same body type, move and sometimes even attack in a similar fashion – and both films claim their monsters to be responsible for the mysterious disappearance of the Anasazi Indians who vanished from the face of the earth some 900 years ago.

In this case, instead of a mad scientist resurrecting the monster to conquer the world, some old Indian guy has it dug up because he wants to close the book on his ancestors’ disappearance by proving that some otherworldly creature was what wiped out almost every last one of his people out so very long ago. If that reasoning seems rather dumb and short-sighted, well, welcome to Unearthed.

The monster here looks remarkably like H.R. Giger’s Alien design after having been tricked out with some different appendages and a few detachable accessories, as if the Unearthed creature designers merely gave it a makeover on a TV show called “Pimp My Alien”. In those scenes where you get a really clear look at it, to me, this would be the hybrid creature that would pop out of Pumpkinhead if it got impregnated by an Alien facehugger.

The unoriginal design is hardly the biggest beef I had with the monster. Leutwyler’s script fails to capitalize on any aspects of the creature that might make it unique and, thus, prevent his film from just being a run-of-the-mill monster movie on every level. It can infect people and animals with these parasites yet nothing really ever comes of it and its reasons for doing so are barely speculated about. This rather sizable tick-like critter detaches from its torso during the climax; why this happens and what little comes of it smells of a screenwriter tossing something out there without much thought as to why he’s even doing so other than to suddenly toss in a short-lived surprise twist. Even the monster’s very reason for being, a reason that could have made things intriguing had anything come of it, listening to certain characters offer up this explanation, I began to wonder after awhile if even Leutwyler didn’t know what he could do with this set-up and so he decided to not even bother trying.

Instead he made about as routine a monster movie of this type as one can make; the sort where the monster always seems to know where to be and when to be there at just the right moment and when not to be there so that the characters will have time to do what they need to do before it does get there.

Exactly where this there is, let’s just call it Clichéville. The monster, the plot, the characters: nothing but clichés, clichés, clichés.

The stock characters consist of the drunkard sheriff with emotional baggage, the eager-to-please deputy, the wise old Indian, his scientist granddaughter, a pair of pretty blondes on their way to Hollywood, a fast-talking African American from the big city, a hunky young hitchhiker, the wealthy cattle baron who constantly barks demands at people, and an armed gunman skulking about who knows more about the monster than he’s initially willing to tell or bother to warn anyone about.

Note to filmmakers: do not cast a way-too-attractive actress in the role of the sheriff of a tiny community in the middle of nowhere who is also supposed to be a psychologically scarred alcoholic prone to saying stuff like how her lifelong dream was to be the sheriff in a place just like this. Emmanuelle Vaugier (Saw II) is so miscast they even had to toss in a throwaway line or two about it.

Her character’s a raging alcoholic haunted by memories of a tragic incident a year earlier in which she accidentally shot and killed a little girl. This whole backstory designed to add gravitas to her otherwise non-entity of a character has no emotional resonance whatsoever – feels tacky and tacked-on more than anything else. It really just seemed to be an excuse for various townsfolk to repeatedly mention the town would be holding a meeting the next week to vote her out of office. It’s brought up so often you could almost make a drinking game out of it.

Speaking of improbable characters, Luke Goss (Blade 2) plays this gun-toting mercenary-type with a mean-looking tribal face tattoo who ultimately turns out to be an anthropologist and, at one point, even begins whining about how the university he worked for cut his funding and his colleagues all thought he was crazy. Thought you were crazy, huh? Was this before or after you got the Mike Tyson fright tattoo on your face?

And why does the only black character in the movie have to be a vulgar, jive-talking, obnoxious motormouth constantly bitching and moaning and displaying little concern for anyone except himself? Granted Charlie Murphy (brother of Eddie, apparent channeler of the Wayans) does have the best and most well deserved death scene of the movie, but still…

For that matter, is there some rule in Hollywood that all old Native Americans in movies today must talk like they’re some sort of New Age guru? The man can turn a simple conversation about making pottery suddenly turns into a philosophical lecture on the metaphysical nature of the earth itself. If he’s so wise then how come he’s the moron truly responsible for the unearthing of this virtually unstoppable monster capable of mass extermination? Yeah, answer me that, Deepak Chopra With Wolves?

His botanist granddaughter, who practically becomes the main character along the way, is there to play the role of Dana Scully: making many a scientific observation, conducting experiments, and perpetually hypothesizing about the nature of the beast. Before it’s all over, she’ll get covered with uranium residue and at no point does she ever show any ill effects of having been so or even say anything along the lines of, “Oh, crap! I’m covered in uranium! This cannot be good!” When the Geiger counter goes crazy as you wave it around your very being, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that a bad thing – a very bad thing?

I said it before and I’ll say it again: the whole movie is just a great big bundle of clichés – and dumb. This After Dark Horrorfest entry is more or less a tedious Sci-Fi Channel original movie with better production values yet still every bit as by-the-numbers. Sadly, imagination was not running wild when this monster got unearthed.

1 1/2 out of 5

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