DIRECTED BY: John Adams, Toby Poser
FEATURING: John Adams, Toby Poser, Zelda Adams
PLOT: After running over his young neighbor, Kurt hides the girl’s body in ever deeper depths while her ghost haunts him and her psychic mother begins noticing Kurt’s strange behavior.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: The Deeper You Dig is an entertaining combination of endearing family dynamics and unsettling horror/possession atmospherics. It is a damn fine yarn spun with aplomb, but it’s more charming than weird.
COMMENTS: I don’t make a habit of staying up past midnight after a full evening of watching movies, but I emerged from the cinema with a spring in my step that contrasted considerably with the despairing sluggishness that had overcome me during the previous movie (the unfortunate Sadako, whose mini-review will be forthcoming). I also don’t make a habit of showering film-makers with unadulterated praise in the Q & A session, either, but frankly, after the satisfaction I received from watching The Deeper You Dig, it would have been almost dishonest of me not to.
On the eve of a snowstorm, a mother and daughter (Toby Poser and Zelda Adams—who are, incidentally, actually mother and daughter) have stocked up on provisions to hold them through the coming days. When mom goes off to work—bilking some neighbor with a psychic tarot reading act that’s more authentic than we’re initially led to believe—the daughter, Echo, decides to do some teenage rebellion in the form of nighttime sledding. Unfortunately, this brings her into the path of Kurt (John Adams), an aloof neighbor, who is distracted by some deer passing his truck on the road after a night out drinking. After hitting the girl, he panics and brings her body to a house he’s fixing up, then panics further when he finds she hasn’t died. On a desperate and destructive whim, he finishes her off, setting off a chain of occult misfortunes.
The Deeper You Dig begins its titular motif with Echo first being “buried” in a tub in an abandoned bathroom before being relocated to a shallow grave (the winter ground is hard), then to a deeper one. As her spatial descent begins, so does Kurt’s mental collapse. This clever hook, like much else in the movie, is executed well: the “Adams Family,” as they refer to themselves, know their tropes and technique. Filmed entirely in the Catskills (less than an hour from my stomping ground, coincidentally), they capture the watery chaos of last year’s wet winter beautifully. The abandoned house that Kurt’s repairing allows for plenty of truly neat-o camera shots, with one of my favorites being a recurring use of a window overlooking the property’s well. This screen within a screen portends actions of import, as well as a number of the grisly laughs to found throughout The Deeper You Dig.
Am I over-selling this? I doubt it. I know that I was in a rather depressed frame of mind after the big-budget, go-nowhere, God-what-is-wrong-with-you-people? blah boredom of Sadako, but I also know that I found The Deeper You Dig to be genuinely fun, appropriately creepy, and peopled by characters I actually cared about. (Big-budget J-Horror filmmakers, if you’re reading this, take note.) Having swung to a low I haven’t felt at Fantasia since Our House, this little family-horror picture from a genuine-actual family from the Catskills was nothing short of a revitalizing tonic.
You can also listen to our interview with the filmmakers.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY: