Tag Archives: John Adams

FANTASIA 2023: APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: WHERE THE DEVIL ROAMS (2023)

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DIRECTED BY: ,

FEATURING: Toby Poser, John Adams, Zelda Adams

PLOT: A scrappy family trio travel Depression-era Catskills pursue an ascension into big time carnival show-biz, all while executing harsh justice.

Still from Where the Devil Roams (2023)

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE APOCRYPHA: It probably shouldn’t—if not for that final shot. My goodness.

COMMENTS: Dark times bring forth dark magic in this meditative and macabre motion picture from the renowned indie horror team the Adams Family. They entered our collective awareness with The Deeper You Dig, knocked off socks (and knocked out ear-balls) with the metal-infused follow-up Hellbender, and gloriously return once more with Where the Devil Roams. Tobey, John, Zelda, and Lulu continue to hone their craft as a family-filmmaking team (and unlike the Ormonds, these are fun-time, fun-filming folk). Their “tiny” movie explores big ideas, delivers big gore, and proves to have a big heart beating at its tattered core.

The slow death of the carnival business grinds down the poor carnies of upstate New York, perhaps none more so than Maggie, Seven, and their daughter Eve. This trio aspire to earn a place at the “Buffalo Horror Show,” the last remaining big to-do in the circuit. While traveling along with their bare-bones circus group, they drop in on various ill-doers—a cruel landlord, a crooked financier—smiting the enemies of the little man with a smiling viciousness. Maggie wields the weapon, Seven speaks the scripture, and Eve, born mute, captures their handiwork on camera with a quiet relish.

Taking a moment to consider the inputs for this film—third- and fourth-hand props and costumes, self made sets, musical chairs camerawork (who ever was not in a frame at the time was typically behind the lens), and the mystical fusion of American myth with homemade magick—the film is impressive. But then, it feels impressive even without that qualifier. I mention those elements to share how much heart and soul went into this little wonder; and that’s not mentioning the blood. Papa Seven cannot abide further carnage after his time as a medic in WWI, so Mama Maggie applies his blindfold before the blood and fury. These grisly doings are a grisly delight: either through the sheer bluntness of a chiming skillet, or a deadly harpooning with a fire poker, it’s always fun to watch these righteous murderers. And with the black magic tied in (heh), there is an unreal aura whose moral ambiguity becomes darker and darker.

The image gets a bit dark, too, and strange: beginning in a full-palette, it flickers and devolves into grainy, black-and-white harshness. By the end, as the family’s already meager fortunes collapse (along with a couple of their bodies), we enter a saturated, white-light nightmare.

Which brings me to the punchline. In the penultimate shot, our heroine Eve has transformed from an angel of light to one of darkness, who escorts an unknown entity down one of those looong corridors typically reserved for nightmares. With a reassuring bend of her finger, she beckons to her follower, along with us, to go through the final door to end stage. A song emerges from her lacquered lips, a spotlight jolts into life, and BAM!

Listen to Giles Edwards’ interview with the Adams family about Where the Devil Roams.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…a conscious homage to early cinema traditions… Formally, the film is audacious, again pulling off stylistic flourishes that in the hands of less confident, skilled filmmakers could feel hokey or cliched.”–Alexandra Heller-Nicolas, AWFG.org (festival screening)

WHO KNOWS “WHERE THE DEVIL ROAMS,” BUT THE FAMILY ADAMS IS HERE WITH US

Where the Devil Roams review.

Four filmmakers, one family, and a big ol’ bloody pile of Depression Era violence. Matriarch Tobey Poser along with her husband John Adams, and their daughters Lulu and Zelda, are some of the most fun people to chat with, particularly when you’re talking horror, symbolism, and American myth. So sit ye back and learn more about their latest feature, Where the Devil Roams.

Audio only link (Soundcloud download)

 

RAW AUDIO: JON ADAMS, ZELDA ADAMS, AND TOBY POSER ON “THE DEEPER YOU DIG” (2019)

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. Giles Edwards interviews the unique crew of filmmakers (John Adams, Toby Poser, Zelda Adams)—a mom, a dad, and a daughter who share writing, directing and acting duties.

Giles’ review of The Deeper You Dig

CAPSULE: THE DEEPER YOU DIG (2019)

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 LISTThe 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:

“…a brooding, atmospheric piece of work that points up unforeseen and perhaps unforeseeable consequences to having that one last drink.”–Jennie Kermode, Eye for Film (Fantasia screening)