That’s some dirt! (CREDIT: XYZ FILMS/Screenshot)

Starring: Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson

Director: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead

Running Time: 116 Minutes

Rating: R for Philosophical Babble Occasionally Laced with Profanity

Release Date: November 4, 2022 (Theaters)

What’s It About?: If you asked me, “Hey, Mr. Movie Critic, who are your favorite indie filmmakers working today?”, then I would answer without hesitation “Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead!” (The exclamation point is there because I would be really excited to answer that question.)

That theoretical conversation is not what Something in the Dirt is about, but it is the perfect way to introduce it, since it’s the latest effort from the Benson-Moorhead directing duo. While they were locked down during COVID-19’s early days, they couldn’t help but make a new movie. Justin plays Levi, while Aaron assumes the role of John, two guys who live in the same apartment complex and notice some strange goings-on that seem to defy the laws of space and time. So they decide to make a documentary about it, all the while musing about gravity, electromagnetism, simulation theory, unexplainable phenomena, encounters with coyotes, and Dan Brown. But can their friendship survive their obsessions?!

What Made an Impression?: I found Something in the Dirt to be the most impenetrable of Benson and Moorhead’s films, even though it’s almost entirely just two guys talking to each other. But they drifted so far away from brass tacks that I was often left wondering, “Wait, did something happen that I missed while I was with you guys the whole time?” In some ways, that’s kind of thrilling, as they weave together a montage of simple images that appear to come from stock footage and readily accessible Internet sources and manage to make it feel like the entire fate of the universe is at stake. At other times, it just feels like frustrating smoke break-filled quasi-philosophical musings. (Although maybe that’s the point?)

As Levi and John’s efforts drag on into oblivion, there’s a bubbling antagonism, which isn’t much fun to be around. Luckily, that’s occasionally broken up by talking head interviews with the crew of their documentary-within-a-film. That sort of reality imposition trope pretty much always works for me, and that’s the case here.

I watched Something in the Dirt at home via an online screener, and I think it may have suffered a bit that way, because this is the sort of movie that begs to be fully immersed in. Although, I also suspect that home viewing has its advantages, what with modern technology allowing for pausing, rewinding, and copious note-taking. Still, this kind of feels like a doodle, but like a really detailed doodle that incorrigible artists can draw on command.

Something in the Dirt is Recommended If You Like: Conspiracy theory videos, Staying up all night to talk about conspiracy theory videos

Grade: 3 out of 5 Gravity Shifts