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Deeper You Dig, The
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by Jay Seaver

"DIY horror done pretty well."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Every time I see a movie like "The Deeper You Dig", I wonder how many more groups there are out there like the family that made it, tight-knit enough to do something as resource-and-time-consuming as a movie not just for no money but without the expectation that it will lead to something else. Hundreds, probably, with vanishingly few cracking the lineups of a major genre festival, mostly winding up on virtual shelves next to a hundred times as many self-published novels and indie rock MP3s online. Like most of that material, it will almost certainly not be the most accomplished or easily-recommended movies you'll see all year, but it's individual enough that it will speak almost directly to those who like it.

Ivy Allen (Toby Poser) has a good little grift going as a fortune teller, with 14-year-old daughter Echo (Zelda Adams) helping, shall we say, to set the scene. With other things to do around the house, Ivy's not able to watch Echo as she goes sledding on one of those winter days where the sun goes down quickly, and she is hit by a drunk driver. Horrified, Kurt (John Adams) starts to turn his life around, even making firends with Ivy when they meet in town and guiltily helping out where he can. Of course, it turns out that Ivy's connection to the spirit realm isn't completely imaginary, and Echo is not resting easily.

It's a bit strange to call a horror movie "cute", but that's the sort of vibe this DIY production gives off, especially once you know that the main cast are real-life parents and daughter. It's less actually scary than an earnest attempt to make a scary movie, with the basic shape of a ghost story and the bones of a good parallel between the haunted parties, though it can't help but feel more like people excited to make a horror movie than a group into the particular story they're telling. On top of that, it's a bit of a case where ghosts aren't necessarily as interesting as the guilt that they represent. That said, when the film takes an odd twist that leads to the movie trying to do two or three different things at once that don't quite mesh, it at least handles it better than a lot of films that take a big swing do. The last act may not be quite so eerie or unnerving as it is meant to, but it is also not nearly so unintentionally funny as expected.

This isn't the family's first production on either side of the camera, and they are, as a group, fairly capable, certainly enough at ease with each other to go back-and-forth without stumbling and take on changed variations when the time comes. Husband and wife (and co-directors) John Adams & Toby Poser manage the weight their characters carry well, and daughter Zelda makes both a likable kid and a good angry spirit. I do wonder a bit if Echo affecting a more teen-goth look and wardrobe with each subsequent experience as said spirit is something they thought a teenage ghost would do or just the natural result of having Zelda closely involved in the production.

She also serves as the cinematographer for much of the movie (father John handles those chores of the scenes where she appears on-screen), and it's quite capable, an example of how even people without a whole lot of formal training in a field can get a handle on the basics well enough to get the job done and maybe pick more up. There are a lot of shots that use the same "one light cutting through darkness" visual, enough for it to seem a bit of a signature, and while she might grow out of using so much, it gives the movie a visual personality that a lot of more professional ones might not necessarily have. There's similarly fairly decent visual effects, and John Adams does well enough editing that the film doesn't feel like it's just an indulgent family project.

It is that, of course, the sort I always feel a little nervous about writing up among the more professional works that play even the "underground" programs of this sort of festival. It's not as polished as those, but it's a worthy effort that the Adams family can be proud of even if it doesn't necessarily rise to the top of the pile of homemade movies, sales-wise, when it gets that sort of release, and horror fans should get a kick out of what folks this dedicated can make.

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originally posted: 12/29/19 05:11:17
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

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Directed by
  John Adams
  Toby Poser
  Zelda Adams

Written by
  John Adams
  Toby Poser

  John Adams
  Toby Poser
  Zelda Adams
  Izzy Figueredo

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