Festivals

{Fantastic Fest} Movie Review: The Deeper You Dig

If weird, surreal horror with elements of a supernatural haunting sounds like your thing, look no further than the indie gem from The Adams Family.  This multi-talented family, wrote, directed, and acted in this surprising film that debuted at Fantastic Fest over the weekend.

The Deeper You Dig
Courtesy of Wonder Wheel Productions

It’s a simple premise that is done well.  One terrible decision leads to another as a guilty man and a grieving mother unravel.  Kurt(John Adams) spends his days alone renovating an old farmhouse.  Ivy(Toby Poser) cons vulnerable marks out of money as a fortune teller in between caring for her teenage daughter Echo(Zelda Adams) who has a love of hunting, drawing, blue lipstick, and old music.  When an accident brings them all together, madness and horror intersect.

I’m not spoiling anything by saying the death of Echo acts as the catalyst for the events that transpire.  It happens very early on and it’s in the published premise of the film.  What I won’t spoil is everything that happens after.  It is something that must be seen to appreciate.  Eerie imagery, a smart sound track, and macabre actions combine in a boiling cauldron of strangeness that will keep you engaged despite the slow burn.

Cinematography plays a huge roll in the atmosphere created.  Beautiful wide shots of the landscape develop isolation and bleak solitude while blurry intimate scenes convey the confusion and disbelief grief can invoke.  This is a gorgeous setting and shot selection makes good use of stark wildness.  An attention to the eyes of our trio of characters comes in interesting contrast to panning shots of nature and close-framed shots of the more Lynchian moments that hit even harder because of the juxtaposition with the mundane. 

Set pieces act as tools for the haunting that unfolds. The best ghost stories use the normal things around them to convey terror. Simple everyday items like old radios, farmhouse walls, decrepit bathtubs, and Jack O Lanterns drive the tension in scenes that play like an allegorical fairy tale.  Once things heat up there is an ample amount of gore including plenty of  triggering images of dead animals. In particular, a cool use of a Sawzall and a silver tray laden with fox entrails is used creatively.  Not since Insidious used Tiny Tim’s Tip Toe Through The Tulips has a plot device been used so well. Peggy Lee gleefully croons Ain’t We Got Fun as things take a horrific turn.  It’s clever and manipulative, but I didn’t mind being led around just a little.

The movie has a few problems. Character development is lacking somewhat to flesh out the story fully.  Echo barely registers before her death and what little time is devoted to her motivations is presented as vengeful actions of a muddied entity.  Kurt additionally is devoid of explanation going from quiet loner to psychopath in five minutes with zero back story.  Ivy fairs better as she has some of the creepiest scenes involving her paranormal past. She has a murky past with her gifts that provide a nifty reveal mid way through and allow for the most bizarre moments.

Guilt will drive you mad.  The harder you try to cover up your mistakes the easier it is for them to catch up with you.  As reality blurs for all three of our characters questions continue to swirl.  Sometimes the dead don’t stay buried regardless of how deep you dig their grave.  Guilt is a killer, and if it doesn’t get you the wronged just might.  Rotting his soul from the inside out Echo wreaks havoc on Kurt. This is the Tell Tale Heart told from the perspective of the murdered man. For visual and auditory impact alone this is a film that should be watched.  Maybe when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

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