Pattern Recognition: Something in the Dirt (Aaron Moorhead & Justin Benson, 2022)

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Pattern Recognition: Something in the Dirt (Aaron Moorhead & Justin Benson, 2022)

We’re at least thirty years into the Internet, by my count, and people are finally starting to make movies about how the Internet feels.

I can never develop a firm opinion of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, the filmmakers behind Something In The Dirt. They’ve made a string of low-key, character-driven horror movies — Spring, The Endless, Resolution — that were almost great, but always marred by something, most often by an uncomfortable streak of bro-y misogyny. Resolution is a great movie about being friends with an addict, but the friends in question bond for an uncomfortably long time over a supposedly hilarious story about one of them sleeping with an “ugly” “pig” of a woman. Spring is about a woman who gives up immortality by refusing to abort a pregnancy, and all I can say is that the movie really never stops to wonder why giving up eternal life to have Literally Just Some Guy’s baby might not be everyone’s romantic ideal.

Something in the Dirt actually worked for me. I have reservations, but I like it more than anything else they’ve done. It ought to be their most insufferable project: It stars Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (d’oh) as amateur filmmakers (eesh) who stumble upon seemingly paranormal events (okay) and decide to make a movie about them (urgh). The meta-commentary runs deep. There are several moments when I think the movie is asking me to enjoy an in-joke about a fandom that I don’t share. It should be totally self-indulgent.

Yet the result is sort of a Heavenly Creatures for adult men; sneakily disturbing, and smart about the ways people evade the grim reality of their own lives. Something in the Dirt reminds me of another recent movie, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, for the way it captures not only the look but the feel of an Internet rabbit hole. Two men set out to explain the inexplicable, but the more explanations they come up with, the less any of it makes sense.

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