June 5, 2020 The Deeper You Dig (Movie Review)
The Deeper You Dig is a family Horror Drama directed, written, and starring a real-life family. Husband and wife duo John Adams (Knuckle Jack 2013, The Shoot 2014) and Toby Poser (Rumblestrips 2013, Halfway to Zen 2016) have made movie making a family business since the early 2010s. Even their children have credits both in front of and behind the camera. Their latest work is no exception. If anything, the family connection might give it that extra bit of authenticity. Bound for a digital release on June 5, 2020 through Dark Sky Films, The Deeper You Dig sounds promising, but what is it about?
Ivy (Poser) and Echo (Zelda Adams: The Hatred 2018, Noble 2018) are a mother and daughter living in the Catskills. Ivy, a former psychic, makes a living giving dodgy tarot card readings, while Echo hunts and listens to old-timey music. Things take a turn when a recluse called Kurt (Adams) moves down the road to restore an old farmhouse. Echo gets killed when Kurt drives drunk home. To hide what he has done, Kurt buries her body deep underground. But while he can hide her remains, her spirit starts burrowing into his head, while Ivy tries to dig up the truth behind what happened to her daughter. This is only the beginning of Kurt’s troubles.
One can probably tell there are plenty of digging metaphors going on. Though is the film itself rich in quality, or should it have been left fallow for a while? It certainly leaves a good first impression, as the direction is quite solid. The use of lighting- or lack thereof- is especially effective, be it in the film’s tarot scene, or for when Kurt realizes what he has done. It sometimes makes things a little hard to see, but its on-site light sources (streetlights, headlights, etc) make the scenes feel more natural than rigged-up lights. Plus, the shot composition helps keep the story flowing, make each event legible, and build up tension bit by bit. So, one does not get the feeling there are missing anything out.
Though even the day scenes can feel as creepy, cold, and remote as its locations through its editing. Not to mention the musical score, as many of the film’s tenser scenes are backed by a disconcerting, low hum. It does an effective job of building up that moody atmosphere that runs through most of the film. There are some less subtle loud thrangs in there too, which are used more sparingly, but are less effective beyond a scene or two.
The scares themselves are not particularly new. Those who have seen more than their fair share of ghost stories will recognize a few tricks of the trade. A spooky radio here, a jump-scare there. Yet they are used well and used sparingly. Most of the fear-inducing scenes throughout the film are designed to make viewers skin crawl and keep them in suspense. It does so effectively too, as it really keeps the audience on edge before bringing in the more overt scares to shock them.
Still, there are rough spots. Some scenes in the second half felt like they could have been trimmed or even cut without affecting the big picture (Kurt on the loo!). But others could have done with more tweaking, as some of Ivy’s own nightmares are more effective than others. One scene, a séance-based vision, dispels much of the tension built in the first half because it looks more silly than scary in execution. The film manages to build the mood back up from there, albeit not as strongly as in the first half. It might be because there is less runtime left to do so, or because the writing gets a little too on the nose in places (“Did you hear that? That echo?”).
That said, The Deeper You Dig remains a worthy watch. The direction is strong, making strong use of its shots, cuts, and its touches of budget stretching VFX. The acting is understated yet natural and convincing. The second half is unfortunately shakier than the first thanks to some dodgy execution, but the finale helps put the film back on track. Despite its flaws, this humble, family-made Horror film can still stand tall over many of its bigger-budgeted rivals. Thus, for these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives The Deeper You Dig 4 out of 5 stars.