Indie Features: THE UNEARTHING (2015) by Tristan James Jensen
It’s obvious to regular readers of this blog that Loud Green Bird devotes a lot of space to indie film. One of the reasons for this is indie film’s constant newness. There are always new films to check out and new filmmakers to meet. To paraphrase Forrest Gump, indie film is “like a box of chocolates” because the Bird never knows what it’s going to get.
Today Loud Green Bird presents a surprisingly good film from a surprisingly young filmmaker. Or rather, he was surprisingly young when he made the film. Read on to find out about Tristan James Jensen’s THE UNEARTHING.
The film’s title makes it sound like a horror movie, but it’s actually a YA mystery-drama. The story centers on Autumn (Riley Yeary), a beautiful yet sullen and withdrawn teenage girl from Michigan. She arrives in a small town in Minnesota to spend the summer in a rented house with her father, Jim (Scott Novotny). Autumn doesn’t want to be there but decides to make the best of it. She’s brought along a blank diary to fill with her thoughts about her summer experiences.
Since her dad is busy with a work assignment, he’s often not home. Left to her own devices, Autumn decides to explore the town. She ends up meeting two other teens. Together, they uncover a supernatural mystery in a local historical site. Trying to solve it puts all three in danger. And things are not always what they seem to be.
Autumn meets Charlotte (Angelina Masciopinto) even before she has a chance to get out of the house. She finds Charlotte sitting at the foot of her bed when she wakes up one morning. Autumn is more annoyed by than curious about this surprising and bold intrusion. As mysterious as she is upbeat and cheerful, Charlotte explains only that she “doesn’t believe in privacy.”
Charlotte manages to bait Autumn into going for a walk in the forest behind her house. There they meet Parker (Kaleb Miller), a teenage boy who’s as withdrawn as Autumn. After a short period of adolescent social awkwardness, the three set off for the center of town. There they find the Warden’s House, a historical site that’s now a museum. The warden of a long-defunct prison used to live there. While exploring it, Autumn has a paranormal experience that Parker witnesses.
Shaken, Autumn vows never to return to the Warden’s House. Still, the three (led by Parker) spend most of the second act researching its history at the local public library. They’re looking for clues that might explain Autumn’s supernatural encounter. This sleuthing leads them to a local historical society located behind the Warden’s House. They try to sneak in to explore the society’s historical archives but end up in the cellar of the old jail itself, where all three have another frightening paranormal experience.
There’s a connection between the two supernatural encounters, but its nature is not yet clear. And the three teens don’t have much time left to figure it out. A demonic force starts to pursue Parker just as he begins to develop an emotional bond with Autumn. Who or what can save him? At any rate, Autumn’s summer has become anything but boring.
Background and Commentary
Tristan James Jensen not only created this story but wrote, produced, directed and shot the film based on it. He also did most of the post-production, including the editing. Moreover, he did this all at the young age of sixteen. While THE UNEARTHING has some story problems, it is an impressive achievement nonetheless — one of which any indie filmmaker, regardless of age, should be proud.
Its roughly sixty minutes of run-time contain technically excellent cinematography, sound, lighting, and set and costume design. The acting (particularly that of the three young actors) is good. Finally, the editing and musical score (including original work by Reuben Spencer) are well done. Only the horror special effects — which are more difficult to do than most viewers imagine — are in need of improvement.
THE UNEARTHING premieres on VOD later this month through Cinedigm and Nelsen Madison Films. Follow its Facebook page for all the details!
Disclosure: Loud Green Bird provided this review at the request of Tristan James Jensen, who provided access to an online screener of and images from the film. No financial considerations were involved.