Even with 70-odd films playing at FrightFest, The Deeper You Dig stands out as something unique. Leaving aside the fact that it’s a family venture, written and directed by and starring John Adams, Toby Poser and their daughter Zelda Adams, it’s a horror film that is absolutely its own thing. The storytelling decisions are strange and bold, occasional missteps are covered by dazzling successes, and budgetary limitations are overcome with imagination and drive.
With that being said, the basic set-up is relatively straightforward. Ivy (Toby Poser) is a medium who’s squandered her gifts for the guarantee of hard cash from the lonely and desperate. When her daughter Echo (Zelda Adams) is killed in a hit and run accident at the hands of new in town house flipper Kurt (John Adams), Ivy desperately searches for signs of what has happened to her even as he efficiently hides the evidence.
But as Ivy begins to realise that Echo might be on the other side of the veil, Kurt starts to be haunted by visions of the girl whose life he took. Both mother and daughter are pushing to make contact, and this haunted man is trapped in the middle.
The filmmakers make excellent use of their location and snowbound setting, conjuring atmosphere from the woods and countryside as Ivy roams the roads and Kurt rattles around a dilapidated house. As many big stylistic swings as the film takes during its supernatural sequences (there’s a pretty jaw-dropping séance scene), there’s a constant sense of gravity. The film never loses sight of the tragedy at its core, driven by a committed performance from Poser as the desperate mother and Adams’ underplayed morose guilt.
But things do get weird. Without wanting to ruin anything there’s a fascinating twist on the classic revenge ghost story formula at work here, and again, it’s carried through largely due to the single-minded commitment of everyone involved. There is the occasional wrong note and the concept is arguably a little overstretched even at 90 minutes, but genre fans looking for something unusual and genuinely surprising should absolutely hunt this down, and you may be surprised by the amount of heart on display too. The Deeper You Dig is a real discovery.
The Deeper You Dig was seen and reviewed at Arrow Video FrightFest 2019.