Recommended Something in the Dirt Movie Explained. Stop. Before we get started – we gotta recommend two other movies first. They aren’t in a trilogy or anything. They don’t mean anything in sequence – but all three are in the same universe, and they comment on each other specifically. So, even before we get to this particular movie recommendation we have to recommend the movies Resolution and the second movie, The Endless.
Resolution tells the story of an estranged friend who intercedes in his old buddy’s life. The old friend happens to be a junkie, and his friend is determined to save his life. So, he chains him to a pipe in an abandoned house in order to break his horrible habit. But what happens after that great setup has to be seen to be believed. It’s a movie that asks questions about destiny and fortune, about making the unseen gods of fate happy. Or maybe not. It’s unclear. And The Endless, deals with a couple of brothers who escaped a cult, and decide to go back and visit to see if it really was as bad as they remember it being. Similarly cool setup, that also similarly go to totally unexpected directions.
K? So, you probably want to watch Resolution (First?) and The Endless (Second?) and then Something in the Dirt (Third?)… or something like that. There are a lot of interleaving references here. But to be honest with you? Even having watched all three of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s three key films, I still struggled to pull them all together into a coherent clear corpus (alliterate much?). And yet, there is something really, really interesting happening here. So, yeah – let’s get to talking about this film shall we?
Alright – from here on out, we are nothing but spoilers – so, please do not continue on if you haven’t seen the film yet. If you are looking for a place to watch it, any of these locations will hook you up:
Levi awakens in his dingy apartment. Within a minute or two we establish through conversations with his new neighbor that he is stopping over on his way out of Los Angeles. He does strange odd jobs and might have had a run-in or two with the law. Levi’s neighbor, John, is a math teacher who attends church – an apocalyptic evangelical church (is that a thing? I know a LOT about the evangelical church having had been an evangelical for many years of my life. There’s Pre-Trib, Post-Trib, or Mid-Trib Evangelical… but what the heck is an Apocalyptic Evangelical??). While the two are talking, and getting to know one another, the duo realize that a quartz ash tray floats… as does other quartz in the apartment. The floating items are accompanied by flashing lights, noise, and even the shaking of the apartment building.
Realizing that their lives have all been leading up to this particular moment, they decide they will make a documentary about this phenomenon as they try and figure it all out. And, as they start, Levi and John begin distrusting one another as they learn more about one another. First, that Levi is on the neighborhood sex offender list and that he has to attend some sort of community service. Then, that John attends an extremist sort of church of the apocalypse. But the pair push through their moments of hesitation in order to try and capture whatever it is that is happening in Levi’s apartment. As they start diving deeper and deeper into their search Levi begins suggesting that maybe they should stop their search and just throw the towel in. But John, who was not worried at all, just continued rushing forward… and even convinces Levi that he shouldn’t flee the city like he had originally planned to do.
As the magic disappears, and the levitation’s, lights, and radio sound waves vanish, the dynamic duo start to argue. Levi even kicks John out – but when an earthquake is felt not only in the apartment but also throughout the surrounding neighborhood, John rushes back to let Levi know. Later that night, Levi and John, sleeping in the apartment. John wakes floating near the ceiling, and falls to the ground of the apartment in a heap. But Levi? Is gone. In documentary style, we watch as John is asked what happened – and he explains that Levi probably died in the upper atmosphere before he fell back to the earth.
When asked to further clarify exactly what had happened there in the apartment, John’s only response was that his calculations were off… “which ones?”… “some of them.” But that’s about all the viewer gets from the elusive John. And as the movie ends John mentions the sound of tinkling bells… and the camera pans to the window, then down to the Matryoshka dolls down below. Fade to black.
Recommended Something in the Dirt Movie Explained
Throughout the cannon of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s work we have watched as our protagonists suffer existential crisis after crisis only to come face to face with the great beyond. And in those two “prior” films we even see the “creator” of these universes tell the actors in their play to try again… to try harder… to get it right… and then, maybe? MAYBE? They’d be released from very real temporal cages entrapping them until they got it right. This was the common theme that ran through both Resolution and The Endless. Okay? Well, there weren’t any time cages within Something In the Dirt… or were there? Hrmm.
What other themes are running through all three movies? Well, there are a lot. But I only want to dive into one. And that was the red fruit that grew on Levi’s cactus indicating that the duo were actually, in fact, trapped within a time portal cage. Wait, WHAT? Flashback with me to the French Researchers in the movie Resolution. There were three of them. Two we saw in photos, and audio conversations that were only there years prior. Then there is the third, and that researcher continued on, hiding from others. And he was really, really into an alien red-seeded drug that only could be grown there from a cactus that sprouted red fruit buds. Which lead to this – my favorite moment in the film:
And let’s be clear – based on previous movies – if John had eaten that fruit, wholesale? He’d have instantly tripped balls and died. For sure. 100%. But, this movie doesn’t really focus much on the alien drug impacts, so we’ll just let that go. (But did you notice the red flaked drug bag that Levi left on the floor by the couch at one point? Same deal.)
Something in the Dirt – Let’s Put Aside Resolution and The Endless
Let’s put aside the two previous movies, and just look at Something in the Dirt at the face of it. Literally, it would seem that everything we saw was a reenactment. A recreation. All the hard drives got melted (sorry, unless you put them in an oven, that wouldn’t happen naturally), and so all the “real” data of their experiences were destroyed. So, all we have is the word of Levi and John saying that these things happened. And, not to state the obvious or anything, but these two guys? Are in no way, shape or form, trustworthy as eye witnesses. They’ve stated outright that they were both looking for a break, a chance in life. And it’s clear they aren’t above just creating their own break. Just making things up whole cloth.
Then, if that is the case, what is this movie all about? There is a moment of clarity at one point in the film where Levi says to John: “Sometimes I wonder if these two things are just you and me, one of them manipulating the other into an endless rabbit hole going nowhere, and the other one just implicitly going along with it because he wants to believe in something different than his actual life.” This seems to me that Levi is sort of acknowledging that this is all just BS. No? I mean, this duo is just randomly pinballing their way through the “evidence” they are “uncovering.” Just random reference, random number, random chaos… all leading to… what?
The documentary/movie (both simultaneously and independently) makes it pretty clear that these two individuals are making things up as they go. We watch multiple times where they both riff random Reddit/Qanon worthy insanity. And, even between these two friends, it’s clear that they know that they are just BS’ing each other as indicated by this previous quote.
But I think there are several possible theories that might be able to explain this movie and, also maybe even, the larger universe of all three movies. Or not. Let’s walk through the possibilities:
Theory 1 – Time Chaos and Penances
I’ve been pretty clear on my thoughts about what I think the correct view of these Benson/Moorhead movies is. If you are evil – or even just made bad decisions in your life – you will be doomed to repeat the error of your ways until … until what? We really don’t know. For eternity? We don’t have any examples of individuals that have been given grace, have we? Oh, we sort of see grace being given at the end of Resolution… or might being given? But at the end of the day the movies seem to be about paying for your inability to appease the creator. (The creator literally being the screenplay writer, the directors.)
But how does this theory play out in Something in the Dirt? Look at these two protagonists. We have a hippie druggy… maybe a sexual predator… a liar… in Levi. And we also have an Apocalyptic Evangelical cultist. Both fatally flawed. And it could be that these two guys are trapped in one of the Benson/Moorhead time jail cells and they just don’t know it. I mentioned that, in the middle of my review, that the cactus fruit is the single best bit of evidence that these two men are actually trapped.
Theory #1 – Flaws
The most obvious? We don’t have ANY looping happening in this movie at all. None that I could sense anyway. So if Levi and John are locked in their Penance Hell, we don’t really get any indication of that. Better yet, Levi dies! His “loop” ends! So this theory is really quite weak. Now, it could be that Levi doesn’t actually die, (the makeup work for his crash was pretty bad, so maybe that is another “reenactment” of something that didn’t happen) and so they both might be trapped to recreate and recreate their experiences til the end of time? But again, there is no indication of a barrier, a wall, or of a time trap anywhere in this movie.
Theory #2 – Something in the Dirt Stand Alone Myths
Another possibility is that Something in the Dirt is actually a stand alone movie with no connections whatsoever with the other movies in the Benson/Moorhead universe (totally doubt that, but let’s play this out and see where it goes). If that is the case, and if we evaluate this movie by itself, I would argue that this movie is 100% about two men chasing a convincing conspiracy theory. What I mean by that is just a literal reading of the movie.
This reading of the movie could be a commentary on our flights of fancy – our deep desire to create mythos and stories fabricated whole cloth in order to explain deeper, misunderstood phenomenons. This is an interesting theory in that we are seeing this happening today around our political and elections universe. We, as a culture of Americans, don’t understand why large cultural swings are happening, and so we craft stories about underground pedophilia rings selling and using children in the basements of pizza parlors in the nation’s capitol. Eh? Could Levi and John be hunting for similarly compelling (read made-up excuses) stories that will make sense of an unexplained life experience? Mystical (fake) stories of floating crystals, floating everyday apartment items, space transmissions, and the like, all crafted in the hopes of making sense of a hopeless world.
Theory #2 – Flaws
Nothing. I mean, it could be that there is a different impetus here than what I’ve described, but if we are just reviewing this movie holistically, then we are watching the want-to-be movie makers just crafting truth whole cloth. Why? I guess the weakness of this theory is that the duo are telling the truth, and that these phenomenon are happening. ? Let’s see what that might look like.
Theory #3 – Something in the Dirt Stand Alone Truths
Yeah, what if Levi and John actually did find this apartment that was sitting over top of some sort of mystical pile of dirt – influenced by numerology, or cat virii – and they really are witnessing gravity failings? Quartz is floating, Levi is seeing weight fluctuations, they are receiving transmissions from other dimension, et al. And if you don’t think that their excessive drug use isn’t to blame… then what does it mean?
If you go that direction with the film, then I would argue that the movie is more in line with a Primer sort of film than anything else. If you remember, Primer was the Shane Carruth film where two friends create a time machine accidentally. That film is actually about how absolute power corrupts absolutely. We could read a similar morality tale here as well… a story about how this strange phenomenon ultimately ends up getting one of them killed because of their desire to wield it to each their own good. Maybe?
Theory #3 – Flaws
That theory gives WAY too much credit to these two hucksters. Are you kidding me? These guys are making stuff up left, right and center. Nothing that they say is credible. The movie goes out of its way to discredit these guys. Nothing in this movie actually floated. Nothing.
Theory #4 – Benson and Moorhead Are Full of It?
Gotta say though – unfortunately – that the theory I least like – but is a real possibility – is that Benson and Moorhead are actually just full of it. Could it be that these two movie makers are unmasking their own work as just a fun game of hide and seek? When watching this movie, we watch as two auteurs are saying, you know… we just have fun making stuff up, chucking crazy ideas at the wall, and seeing if the movie-going audience will buy it.
Theory #4 – Flaws
My only push back to this idea that these two movie makers are just making stuff up randomly is the fact that Benson has visited this site. And he has even commented on my numerous theories trying to explain The Endless. If you read my five theories there you’ll see that I had similar pros and cons ideas:
This comment actually leads me to believe that there is much more to their work than I could possibly ever get it credit for. So, my hope is that this theory is trash. Fingers Crossed!
Theory #5 – Last Ditch Hope For More
I don’t have anything specific to support this theory – but it’s the theory I believe to be the correct solution to not only this movie, but the other two as well. (I’ve heard that all five movies actually sit in this same universe, but that is a different conversation for a different day.)
Watching all three movies in a row – whichever order – you get the sense that their movies are about friends caring about friends. Brothers caring about brothers. About new buddies trying to make sense of the universe together in the face of the supernatural. And I believe that all three movies are about being decent to one another – not being evil. They are about going the extra mile for someone and attempting to intercede on another’s part solely because we are all on this journey together.
And, if in the midst of this effort on other’s behalf, all of it goes pear-shaped? Be consistent. Be your best version of yourself. And if the gods of the universe decide that it’s not enough, so be it.
Theory #5 – Flaws
Well, I didn’t present any evidence, so there isn’t really anything to refute here. It’s just a feeling I have after having watched all their movies (including Spring, and Synchronic). I’m open to hearing where I’m wrong on this front. I do want to find out how Theory #1 could possibly be true – that Levi and John are actually trapped in a loop within this universe. But Theory #5 is most likely the theory to most work because it is the most generic and vague on the details. Benson’s comment on The Endless makes me wonder if there really is something deeper going on here. But I just don’t know.
I would love to hear from you guys – can you square all three movies? Should we not even try besides finding all the fun allusions to the universe? (Speaking of which, I’ve left all the really fun hide and seek games to finding all the cross-over movie allusion details to you guys in the comments. Can’t wait to see all the references you found while watching!!)
Edited by: CY
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