If messing around with the occult has taught us anything—even if you’re just grifting old ladies out of a few extra bucks when they want to talk to their dead husbands—it’s that you should probably not be surprised to hear voices, discover strange symbols in your daughter’s sketchbook, or wonder why your neighbour is acting so weird after your daughter goes missing.
Of course, if you had to wait this long into The Deeper You Dig to figure out we’re working in the occult wheelhouse, then you obviously missed the black lipstick on the foul-mouthed teenage daughter and the BFF dynamic she has with her mother at the beginning of the film.
While mom Ivy (Toby Poser) is out giving phony Tarot card readings on a snowy night in the soggier parts of New England, teenage daughter Echo (Zelda Adams) decides to do some unsupervised sledding. At the same time, next-door neighbour Kurt (John Adams)—who looks like one of those guys that wears Affliction t-shirts and drinks cheap beer from aluminum bottles—is driving home from a bender at the local bar and is pretty successful at not running over deer, but really sucks at dodging sledding teenagers.
Sure it was an accident, but Kurt is totally the kind of guy who’s probably toeing the line of his probation and the last thing he needs is to deal with a drunk driving charge from a teen with tire tracks on her forehead. Obviously, the thing to do to keep Echo from running her mouth when she comes to is to kill her and bury her in the woods in, you guessed it, too shallow a grave. Lest we forget the title of this movie, but why can’t anyone who’s burying a body in the woods dig a deeper hole to begin with?
Anyway, since mom’s been actively provoking the spirits with her Miss Cleo act, we find out young Echo has also been doing her own occult side-hustle, and what we have is a good old fashioned haunted house story by way of revenge possession.
Pretty soon, Kurt’s house-flipping project is incessantly interrupted by police detectives, Ivy, and her guilt-trip-missing-daughter flyers, and the usual voices and apparitions of young dead Echo taunting Kurt to dig a deeper hole until he finally cuts up the girl’s body and dumps it down a well. That’s when things start to get weird.
This is one of those minimalist 70’s-type, low-budget horrors that gets a lot of bang out of its psychological thriller buck, cashing in on messing with your head for most of the movie. It reminds me a lot of Robert Allen Schnitzer’s 1976 parapsycho kidnapper thriller The Premonition, where a young girl’s foster mother has a premonition that her real, insane mother is coming to get her. Not necessarily similar in terms of plot, but The Deeper You Dig most certainly borrows the pace, the relationship, and the mood.
Watch the credits at the end and you’ll discover that The Deeper You Dig is actually a fun, family affair, written and directed by husband and wife John Adams and Toby Poser who play the leads, with daughter Zelda, as Echo, pulling her weight as co-cinematographer with her father. What little music in the film, for the most part comes from deadEcho messing with Kurt by screwing around with his radio playing “Ain’t We Got Fun” almost on a loop. The remaining music in the film isn’t so much a score as it is a soundscape, composed by triple-threat taskmaster John Adams.
Don’t let the low-budget effort deter you from this flick, though. The father-daughter cinematographer duo creates plenty of striking and haunting imagery using the dreary, New England backdrop to its fullest effect, as well as crank out some creepy nightmare sequences for Ivy after she visits a fellow occultist who lays out what’s really going on.
Slow, but never boring, the pace is not unlike that perfect lick that David Cronenberg hits with his icy Canadian horrors. It was also refreshing to not have to roll my eyes at the safety net of jump scares that so many modern horror films rely on. My only complaint is a little shameful CGI blood, but the head decapitation that went along with it mostly made up for it. Now I’ve gone and said too much.
The Deeper You Dig is one of those flicks that isn’t weird enough that your significant other will undoubtedly walk in on the gratuitous nude sacrifice scene, but it’s not so straightforward that you’ll be able to guess how it turns out. Instead, it’s chilling 95 minutes that does a pretty great job at subverting your expectations of the typical ghost story.
Dir: John Adams and Toby Poser
Scr: John Adams and Toby Poser
Cast: Toby Poser, John Adams, and Zelda Adams
Prd: Toby Poser
DOP: John Adams and Zelda Adams
Country: United States
Runtime: 95 minutes
Available on home video from Arrow Films.