Thursday, August 22, 2019

Fright Fest UK ’19: The Deeper You Dig

Burying a body is a lot like cat-sitting or implementing wage and price controls. It sounds easy, but it always turns out to be messier and more destructive than you expected. Kurt Miller is about to learn that lesson the super hard way when an accident leads to murder and a subsequent haunting in the Adams Filmmaking Family (John Adams, Toby Poser, and their daughter Zelda Adams)’s The Deeper You Dig, which screens during this year’s FrightFest in the UK.

Echo Allen is a goth kid and an accomplished deer hunter. Her mother Ivy was a natural psychic. They would be quite the formidable horror movie duo, if it were not for the crisis of faith Ivy suffered several years ago. Lately, she has been faking readings for money, at the risk of generating bad karma for herself. Regardless, she still senses the physical and metaphysical peril that befalls Echo.

Tragically, a somewhat inebriated Miller ran down Echo while she was walking by the side of the road late at night. Instead of rushing her to the hospital, he finishes her off, with the intention of covering-up the incident. Yet, despite burying her body in the woods, Echo’s spirit starts haunting him and also reaching out to her formerly sensitive mother. Although not certain of Miller’s guilt, Allen finds pretexts for visiting the ramshackle farmhouse he is trying to fix up and flip, sort of like a maternal Columbo.

Deeper is about as DIY as you can get, but that rather suits this austere tale of existential guilt and supernatural dread. It shares the sensibilities of Dostoyevsky and Poe, but its heart and soul is buried in the backwoods hill country, where Americana is at its weirdest. The Adams-Posers are addressing some big themes, but they have crafted an intensely intimidate morality play. They also come up with some fresh and original ways to use Tarot cards.

John Adams (not the classical-minimalist composer, but he did write the film’s score) is riveting as Miller. He smoothly shifts from sinister to a guilt-wracked basket case from scene to scene. As thesp and co-writer-co-director, he makes Miller one of the most complex and fully developed genre bad guys in recent memory. Zelda Adams has a blast chewing the scenery as the spectral Echo, but she also develops enough chemistry with her mom, aptly playing her mom, to make their psychic link believable. Shawn Wilson also adds some memorable flair and heavy attitude as Ivy Allen’s psychic protégé, Del, in a pivotal scene.

This is our kind of independent filmmaking, because it is genuinely independent and refreshingly inventive. There is plenty of woo-woo creepiness, but it is firmly grounded in the Catskills region—so much so, you can practically feel the soil under your nails. Very highly recommended, The Deeper You Dig screens tomorrow (8/23), at this year’s FrightFest in the UK.