A small New Mexican town is awaiting its usual delivery of gasoline. Only it never shows up. Hank (Charles Q Murphy) arrives in his silver sports car and tells the owner of the gas station that the reason for his tanks being empty may have something to do with the charred wreck fifteen miles back. Sheriff Annie Flynn (Emmanuelle Vaugier) leaves town and while she finds the tanker, there's no driver. Looking through the truck, she finds something unusual, a little creature, something like a worm, that she puts in a glass jar and takes back to Nodin (Tonantzin Carmelo) to have checked out. Unknown to Flynn, the driver is, at that moment, being cut open from neck to groin by Kale (Luke Goss). Within his chest are those same worms, each one feeding on his still-warm body.
Back in town, others are joining Hank at the gas station. Two young women en route to Hollywood arrive with a young rancher in the back of their pickup while Nodin and Flynn examine the creature from the crash site. Meanwhile, Grandpa (Russell Means) waits for gasoline but as the sun sets and there's no sign of a replacement tanker, the doors are closed, makeshift beds are laid and dinner is lit on the stove. Soon, though, the quiet is broken by screams, the sounding of alarms and the howl of a creature. Outside of town, Kale has unearthed something at the site of his archeological dig and it's hungry for blood.
Take a little bit of Tremors, something of Alien and creatures that look uncannily like the blind predators from Primeval and you have something not dissimilar to Unearthed. The setting is, again, one that you'll have seen a thousand times before, perhaps more, while the suggestions of there being some Native American influence in the story crops up in the most unlikely of releases, most often those that a company like Anchor Bay will release with a new title, a glossy cover and the suggestion of nudity. However, as ramshackle as this sounds, it's still a good deal more entertaining than Unearthed, which takes itself much too seriously when, really, it ought to have much more fun with its premise of Luke Goss uncovering an alien under the sand of the New Mexico desert.
Director Matthew Leutwyler has shown how he can have fun in his feature debut, Dead & Breakfast, a blood-spattered zombie movie that featured a Greek chorus of country singer Randall Keith Randall (Zach Selwyn). Lewtwyler seemed to accept that so long as he delivered on the gore, we would accept a film that looked as though it was paid for by bottle tops. With Unearthed, he doesn't seem to be enjoying himself as much, plodding through the action rather dolefully and only occasionally bringing his film to life with a splash of the red stuff. There is some grisly horror as a young woman tries to escape the monster and gets herself snagged on broken glass and there's a suitably shocking head-splitting late in the film but, for the most part, it gets by on the odd splash of blood.
"We might as well be waiting on Tupac!" says Hank, the one black member of the cast, thereby reminding us that, with his knowledge of hip-hop, he's still black. The greatest problem with Unearthed is how stupid it believes its audience to be. Early on, Hank leaves a suitcase with Grandpa and given how he stresses that he cannot be late to deliver whatever it is that's in it and how carefully Leutwyler follows this suitcase into the gas station, we're led to believe that it has something of significance in it. Yet it's never mentioned again. Leutwyler also expends some of the film's running time on a flashback that explains why Sheriff Annie Flynn turned to drink but it's neither convincing nor does it really bear any relationship to the events of Unearthed.
Had this been as knowingly silly as, say, Mammoth, Deep Rising or Leutwyler's own Dead & Breakfast, it would have been a better film but it's neither suitably nasty enough to be taken as a horror nor funny enough to be taken as a comedy. It's a B-movie but not a good example of the genre to stand out. The problem with that is, given just how many B-movies get released in a month, there's not a great deal to make Unearthed stand out. In the long run, it'll probably be forgotten. Dead & Breakfast will be remembered by those who'll have seen it on account on account of its odder moments and its gore and Leutwyler's rewrite of Creepshow might do well but this could be the movie of his few people will remember. It probably doesn't deserve very much more.
Unearthed looks much like a horror movie on DVD ought to. Yes, it's dark and the action is sometimes obscured both by this and by Leutwyler's use of smoke effects and the like but the picture is sharp, clear for the most part and unaffected by any print damage. The colours are muted but that appears deliberate given that most of the action takes place at night and in the desert but red stands out and in a horror film, that's what matters. There's a small amount of digital noise in the picture but these are mostly in the short flashbacks rather than in the main action. Otherwise, the DD5.1 audio track is fine but little in the way of the rear speakers or subwoofer being used. Part of this is Leutwyler's way with the action, in which he keeps his creature in the front of the picture but he even lets the use of his soundtrack for ambience pass him by, mostly avoiding such a thing in favour of straightforward action. Finally, there are English subtitles throughout.
There isn't much bonus material on this DVD and what there is on the disc has been put there without much thought from those concerned. The extras start with Interviews (42m41s) with the cast (Vaugier, Murphy, Goss, Carmelo and Means) and special effects supervisor Jason Hamer but the questions are of the, "What is the film about?" variety. None of them really seem quite sure and while Goss offers a good deal of his thoughts on the movie, his fellow cast members and his character, Means is a man of comparatively few words. This is followed by a selection of video recordings from Behind The Scenes (13m29s), some of which are bits of footage from the set while it also features a storyboard meeting and fight choreography. However, none of this footage has been prepared for this DVD and is simply cut together in any old shape.