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Unearth (2021): A Fracking Horror Story

Unearth tells the story of two feuding families in rural Pennsylvania. At first, a rustic drama but soon the story turns horrific when fracking unearths a quiet evil. Gabe talks about what not to do when making a fracking horror film (including disintegrating babies). Kat explains the horrors of real fracking, the biggest piece being how little we know about the process.

Sources in this Episode:

Unearth 2021 Film Review- Fracking Despair

What is fracking and why is it controversial?

Study suggests hydrofracking is killing farm animals, pets

Dimock, PA: "Ground Zero" In The Fight Over Fracking

Is Fracking a threat to water supplies?

Fossil fuel industry has the largest delegation at the COP26 climate summit

Ways to Help:

Fridays for Future


Media from this week's episode:

Unearth (2021)

A fracking horror story, "Unearth" follows two neighboring farm families whose relationships are strained when one of them chooses to lease their land to an oil and gas company. In the midst of growing tension, the land is drilled, and something long dormant and terrifying, deep beneath the earth's surface is released.

Directed by: John C. Lyons, Dorota Swies


Two Small Pennsylvania Families Against Fracking in Unearth by Gabe Castro

RED: Quotes, someone else's words.

Synopsis Two households, both alike in dignity,

In fair Verona Pennsylvania, where we lay our scene,

From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,

Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. [Shakespeare. Romeo Y Juliet]

This story follows two sad and feuding families in rural PA. Or what we Ghouls call, Pennsyltucky. These are two farming families that have hit truly rough times. They’ve lost loved ones and are struggling financially. When the promise of fortune, escape from the mundanity of farm life, and potential redo arrives on their doorstep by way of a natural gas company, Patriot (input name) it’s not hard to understand why this desperate family chose to sell out.

I saw a documentary about fracking when I was in college (so many years ago) and I remember the families featured in it. They were equally pressed and stressed for something new. It was only when their water turned a disgusting yellow and the checks arrived for their land with exceptionally fewer zeros that they had truly realized their mistake. The Dolans and the Lomacks experience a similar fate though theirs turns much more eco-horror and less sad documentary.

It takes quite a while to get into horror territory however, spending the bulk of the runtime as a drama. We have forbidden trysts, teenage mothers, repressed lesbians, and photographers that don’t want to inherit a farm job. So much of the film focuses on these two families and their sadness that you almost forget there’s the imminent threat of an ecological disaster and that this is a horror film. That is, until everyone starts drinking the disgusting, cloudy water and scratching itches that open skin, revealing growing mushrooms.

For a movie that is 80% not horror at all, it makes up for lost time in the last 20 minutes becoming a gory mess of chaos. Not all deaths are eco-based and it feels rather Shakespearean tragedy by the end. Once I saw there was a young child in this film, I knew nothing good would happen to him and I was right. Do not watch this film if you have a weak stomach! All I’ll say is maybe you see a baby crumble into guts and viscera like instantly and abruptly?


The subgenre of eco-horror is so fascinating to me because it can hold so much within it. It can tackle our insignificance in the world, that the Earth will live on with or without us. It highlights the terrible ways we as a people are affecting nature and wildlife in our pursuit for advancement. And it highlights the absolutely disgusting power that some people and institutions hold over not only the everyday people but the say of the entire world. The crux of that being these companies do not see people as humans but rather a number, an obstacle, a slight hurdle to overcome in pursuit of a greater margin.

I think this film, while certainly painting the company, Patriot Whatever, as being unreliable, greedy, and bad, didn’t exactly drive home the message of them being evil, which is what they are. Instead, we have the intimate story of how two families are affected by this ecological disaster. We get the same issues of contaminated water and less payout than promised (due to absurd bills) that happen in real life and then we get the horror.