Thursday, July 18, 2019

Fantasia 2019--THE DEEPER YOU DIG (John and Zelda Adams, Toby Poser, 2019)

Kurt (John Adams) appears to be seeing ghosts in The Deeper You Dig (2019)
Films are notoriously hard to make, even if some filmmakers make it look easy.  As I teach in a film department, and have even endeavored to make films of my own (all pretty terrible), as well as acted in some productions, I know of which I speak.  Not only must one have dedicated actors and crew who are willing to work for no money, but a story capable of being told on the cheap.  Then you have to figure out how to get people--with power, money, and connections--to see the damn thing.  For every film screened at Fantasia, there are a dozen more that didn't make the cut.  One way to resolve some of these issues is to exploit your family members and friends--so many great horror films hinge on getting just the right location, and frequently that location is your Uncle's house (with Mom and Dad providing "craft services" and a bunch of crew camping out on the floor of the set).  Still, getting all these factors in place is pretty rare, and that's why Toby Poser, and John and Zelda Adams' The Deeper You Dig (2019) is such a delightful accomplishment.

You'll float too!--Toby Poser as Ivy and Zelda Adams as Echo in The Deeper You Dig
Deeper begins with two narratives that will soon interconnect.  It follows mother and daughter Ivy and Echo as they experience an average winter day in Upstate New York (the Catskills, to be precise).  Echo wants to go sledding, and Ivy reminds her that she cannot be with her because she has a client meeting--Ivy's a "psychic" who does tarot readings and bilks customers for a chance to talk to their loved ones from beyond the veil.  Meanwhile, Kurt, their new neighbor, is tearing the house apart next door in order to flip it.  His clients are also likely wealthy New Yorkers who want a country getaway not too far from the city.  As is wont to happen, a snowstorm blankets the area, and during Kurt's drunken drive back from the local dive bar, he hears a "thump, thump" and stumbles out of his car to discover what he has accidentally hit.  As you can guess, it's not a deer.

Echo awakens in confusion
Here's where the film takes its fateful turn, and speaks to the carefully crafted nature of its story.  Most people (one hopes) would call 911 and get some emergency personnel out there to handle the situation.  Not Kurt...and what he decides to do shortly thereafter further seals his doom.  Ivy is not just sitting around either, and contacts the local authorities, files a missing persons report, and puts up "missing" posters all over town, even paying Kurt a visit to ask for his help in finding her.  What happens to Kurt is more than just a guilty conscience; as he slips deeper and deeper into the darkness, Ivy and Echo's real connection to the supernatural becomes impossible for him, and the audience, to ignore.  The film combines ghostly hauntings, paranormal phenomena, and possession in a wicked brew that is quite persuasive for a film budgeted at $11,000--as the filmmakers divulged in the film's Q  & A.

How did they pull it off?  Well, Toby and John are a couple, and Toby wrote the script and co-directed with John, and his daughter Zelda operated the camera, and all three of them star, using their home in Upstate as well as a house John was "flipping" as their primary locations.  While the film does have a DIY vibe, the soundtrack is quite evocative and sinister (crafted by John) and the beats of the story, as well as its practical effects, are superb.  The Deeper You Dig (2019) is a family affair, and the 5th feature film on their roster (the other films made by "The Adams Family" are available to screen on Amazon Prime).  John explained that he first got the idea for the family to make films when they were living out of an RV (with eldest daughter, Lulu, now off at college) driving around the country.  Only recently have they decided to try their hand at the horror genre--and the Fantasia audience was certainly glad that they did!

One cannot have enough creepy clowns!
Still, The Deeper You Dig is not just coasting on its "origin story," but is a deeply unsettling, well-acted, and beautifully composed dark fairy tale in its own right.  Toby, John, and Zelda are immensely talented and easygoing artists, and I really hope that more people get a chance to see this low budget, indie horror gem than the fans who cheered and embraced "The Adams Family" at Fantasia.  I'm hoping to bring them in as guests to my college, because I think our students will find them really and truly inspiring.