Unearthed (2004) – By Emily Intravia

Modern day Florida meets aliens, zombies, and archeologists in this low budget genre-crossing film that mixes action, horror, and science fiction.

We open with a gory shoot ‘em up as street bums are slaughtered and the police left perplexed. Meanwhile, a young archaeologist named Mallory (Kate Kissingford) is fervently digging in sacred ground when she discovers an ancient artifact that holds some sort of key to releasing an evil, apocalypse-bringing spirit. Back at the station, two hardened detectives (Joe Davison and the film’s biggest name, Tom Savini) investigate the ties between the dig and homeless massacres as we head underground to meet the hellish monster and his zombified minions.

The biggest shame about Unearthed is that like so many lower budgeted fare, the movie is filmed on digital video. From the very first scene, the foggy nature of that cheaper technology casts an unpleasant home movie-esque feel over what is actually a quite competently made action-horror. Unfortunately, the video and general audio quality paired with some amateur performances muddles some of the film’s stronger attributes.

Once you get past these issues, however, Unearthed proves itself a far better film than its budget and look suggest. Though the story never feels that innovative or, for that matter, sensical, there’s plenty of action to keep a hungry audience satisfied. We get a few exciting shootouts, both with old fashioned guns and shiny new lasers. There are also some unique alien kills and an interesting use of its homeless-as-zombies subplot.

The most notable styling of Unearthed is its aggressive use of music and quick-cut editing. A few scenes go by with almost no dialogue, as director Craig Kovach instead lets his visuals and metal score set the scene. At times, the result falls flat (an early demon dance feels more like something you’d find at an amusement park than in the cinema) but as the story progresses, the more punk-like imagery feels, oddly enough, quite natural in creating a kinetic comic book experience. Some viewers may find it irksome and headache inducing, but it’s certainly a unique style that is executed with full energy.

Unearthed is not a film for everybody, but science fiction fans with a taste for gore and video game style action could enjoy its all-out spirit. If you can get past the grainy video quality and obvious budgetary restrictions, Unearthed comes off as a sort of cinematic  arcade game with blood and violence to spare. The film is now available on DVD here.