The Movie Waffler New to Shudder - THE DEEPER YOU DIG | The Movie Waffler

New to Shudder - THE DEEPER YOU DIG

the deeper you dig review
A hit and run driver is haunted by the spirit of the teenage girl whose death he covered up.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: John Adams, Toby Poser

Starring: John Adams, Toby Poser, Zelda Adams, Shawn Wilson, Joan Poser

the deeper you dig poster

Back in the days before Jaws and Star Wars changed how Hollywood studios distributed their wares, there was a lot more screen space to be filled in American movie theatres. The '70s saw a boom in "regional" horror movies - low budget (often micro budget) movies made by independent filmmakers who self distributed their films to local cinemas within their own state.

The Deeper You Dig  is made by upstate New York residents the Adams family (how's that for nominative determinism?) - dad John Adams, mom Toby Poser and their teenage daughter Zelda Adams - with the same sort of entrepreneurial spirit as their '70s predecessors, though with an extra degree of creative talent. With so many screens to be filled, albeit within our homes, might we be seeing the emergence of a new wave of regional horror?

the deeper you dig review

If you're working with a limited budget, it's always best to keep your premise simple, and that's what we get here. Ivy (Poser) is a psychic medium whose powers dwindled long ago, but she still makes a living convincing the local old dears that she can put them in touch with their dead relatives. One evening she leaves her home to visit one such client, leaving her teenage daughter Echo (Zelda Adams) to go sledding alone (the character name 'Echo' leads to a macabre gag later on when her name is shouted into the void with no reply). Echo sleds right out onto the road and into the path of an oncoming car driven by drunk driver Kurt (John Adams), the quiet stranger who has purchased the rotting property next to Ivy and Echo's home.

Kurt takes Echo's corpse back to his house and sets about disposing of the evidence while Ivy prints up flyers and appeals to the townsfolks for help locating her child. As Kurt finds himself haunted by the spirit of his accidental victim, Ivy revisits an old psychic acquaintance, Dell (Shawn Wilson, an unfortunate retreading of the tired old "magical negro" trope), who puts her back into the spirit world as she seeks to communicate with Echo.

the deeper you dig review

As a product of DIY filmmaking on a low budget, The Deeper You Dig is exemplary. Consumer grade Canon cameras are employed to capture the action, with all three filmmakers chipping in as camera operators. Adams and Poser find clever ways to exploit the limitations of such cameras, particularly in how poorly they handle light. Taking a cue from the Coen brothers' debut Blood Simple, a night time cadaver disposal attempt is lit using car headlights, the shadows cast adding an eeriness to the proceedings. Under-exposed interiors are employed to create screens within screens like comic book panels as we watch the action through windows. Creative editing tricks are employed to add to the film's theme of its characters losing sense of time (a cut involving Poser emerging from water might be the most striking piece of editing you'll see this year). The snowy New York state setting adds an extra layer of production value.

Largely avoiding visual effects (the couple of CG moments present do unfortunately stick out here), Adams and Poser instead focus on establishing mood and slow-burning dread. The husband and wife are as impressive in front as behind the camera - though the supporting cast isn't quite working on their level - and their quietly impressive performances go a long way to helping distract from the budgetary limitations.

the deeper you dig review

The Deeper You Dig is let down in a final stretch where after such patient and effective build-up, it ramps things up into Sam Raimi channelling the Three Stooges territory as our grieving mother faces down her child's killer in a standoff that makes us giggle a little more than we really should. Had Adams and Poser found a way to resolve the film while maintaining the sombre tone they had struck so well for most of its running time, The Deeper You Dig would be a deeply satisfying and inspiring piece of economical genre filmmaking. But there's plenty here to demonstrate that the Adams family is a filmmaking collective to keep an eye on.

The Deeper You Dig
 is on Shudder UK now.