Fantasia 2019: Look Beneath the Surface of ‘The Deeper You Dig’ [Review]
The Deeper You Dig is credited as “An Adams Family Film”, and that sense of community and purpose runs throughout the production. The husband and wife team of Toby Poser and John Adams wrote, directed, and star alongside their daughter, Zelda Adams (who’s also credited as co-director). A scan of the credits shows that the Adams family also contributed to producing, shooting, scoring, and editing the film. While the seams sometimes show in this indie production, you can’t help but appreciate the effort on display here.
Ivy (Toby Poser) is a single mother trying to make ends meet. She’s a tarot reader with some psychic abilities, but she’s not above stringing her clients along for a little more money. Her daughter, Echo (Zelda Adams), is a bit of an outsider, but the two share a solid relationship. Their neighbor, Kurt (John Adams), is working on fixing up a nearby house with the intent of flipping it but keeps mostly to himself. He goes into town occasionally for supplies, for a meal, and for perhaps a little too much to drink.
One night while returning to his home, Kurt gets distracted by a group of deer running across the road. In the blink of an eye, tragedy strikes. Kurt makes a series of bad decisions in an effort to cover up what has happened. Soon the lines between the real and the supernatural start to blur. Kurt is left questioning his sanity, and Ivy searches for answers. What plays out from there is a story of strangers trying to cope with grief and unanswered questions as both their lives are increasingly influenced by a restless spirit.
Aspects of The Deeper You Dig are reminiscent of 1999’s under-seen Stir of Echoes. The dreams, hallucinations, and visions featured also left me thinking of films like Jacob’s Ladder and The Evil Within. Despite some slight resonances with these other films, the characters and settings here seem to have their own unique lives, which is not surprising given the nature of the film’s production.
You shouldn’t go into The Deeper You Dig expecting the polished look or feel of a big budget Hollywood production. This was likely a conscientious choice, but the film makes frequent use of slow zooms into and out of a scene, sometimes cutting from one scene or angle to another while this is occurring. There were times I found myself wishing the motion would stop, but it certainly does add to a sense of unease that permeates the film. Some of the special effects also seem a bit amateurish—especially where CGI is used.
But for each one of these elements that misses the mark, there is something else that is notably effective. The landscapes captured in the film are gorgeous and often beautifully captured. Scenes of snow-blanketed forests and running streams are a pleasure to behold. John Adams’s score adds an element of impending dread to the proceedings. The Deeper You Dig presents a number of haunting images that are difficult to shake, and just when I thought I had the film’s ending pegged, there was one last surprise awaiting me.
The Deeper You Dig had its world premiere at the 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival.