The Deeper You Dig


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Deeper You Dig
"The tight-knit production unit brings natural chemistry to the film." | Photo: Courtesy of FrightFest

Anyone who has lived in the wilder parts of the countryside will know what it’s like. Cars can seem to come out of nowhere, even on long, straight roads. People lose a lot of cats and child mortality rates are also higher than elsewhere. Add drifting snow that interferes with visibility and you have a recipe for disaster. Add alcohol and, well, that’s where human culpability enters the equation.

Echo (Zelda Adams) is 14 when she’s hit. Not quite old enough to exercise adult caution; old enough to be a fully formed, fiercely independent person whose willingness to go out on those roads at night has long worried her mother. Echo likes black lipstick and old jazz tunes and sledding. She’s studying for exams. She has the world ahead of her and even when she’s hit by a car, she fights for life – but the driver, who doesn’t want anyone to know what he did whilst drunk, doesn’t give her that chance.

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His name is Kurt and he’s played by director John Adams, who co-wrote The Deeper You Dig with his wife Toby Poser, who plays the girl’s mother, Ivy. The tight-knit production unit brings natural chemistry to the film, which screened at the 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival. Kurt is a loner, partially snowbound in a crumbling house he has long been planning to renovate. His stand-offishness could be natural enough, though it raises some suspicions in the police officers investigating Echo’s disappearance. Ivy doesn’t trust them to get to the bottom of the mystery. She’s convinced that her daughter is dead but wants to find out what happened to her and help her spirit find peace. Starting with tarot, she undertakes a journey through the occult in search of resolution – despite knowing that there could be a terrible price to pay.

And then there’s Echo. Echo still wants to be alive. She wants to go back to her mother. She wants Kurt to confess – and until he does, she won’t leave him alone.

John Adams’ and Poser’s cinematography gives the film an intense sense of place, from the shadowy interiors of homes designed as fortifications against the elements to the crisp landscape of forest and snow. Deer run past at intervals – on the road before the fatal accident takes place, between the trees. At times they seem to symbolise the dead girl – up here in these wild places, nature and civilisation collide physically as well as metaphorically. But Echo was herself a keen hunter. Just who is the vulnerable animal and who is in the driving seat undergoes a shift as the narrative unfurls.

There’s not a great deal of plot here and the performances, whilst perfectly competent, don’t carry as much weight as they would need to for the film to achieve all its ambitions. Nevertheless it’s a brooding, atmospheric piece of work that points up unforeseen and perhaps unforeseeable consequences to having that one last drink.

Reviewed on: 12 Jul 2019
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The Deeper You Dig packshot
Driving home drunk one snowy Catskills night, Kurt Miller accidentally kills 14 year-old Echo Allen sledding in the dark. As Kurt desperately tries to cover up the crime and his tracks, Echo's mother is looking for her missing child - and her child is looking for her.
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Director: Toby Poser, John Adams

Starring: Toby Poser, John Adams, Zelda Adams, Shawn Wilson

Year: 2019

Runtime: 96 minutes

Country: US

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