The snow falls gently but already lies thick on the road between the forest and the winding river as the man heads to town for a night of drinking after a day of working. The girl leaving school, her mother picks her up and they drive home the opposite direction along the same road, one thinking of taking her sledge out after homework is done, the other of a card reading.
At the convenience store, they pass, neighbours who do not know each other, Ivy Allen and her fourteen year old daughter Echo, and Kurt Miller; one plays in the snow in the dark, one sits in the dark wearing black crepe as she deals the cards and palms the money laid out by widower Mrs Minskey, and one drinks in the dark, beer and shots, then drives home.
Their lives colliding together, Kurt’s moment of inattention is followed by a flash of panic then a grim resolution and increasing desperation which lasts through the changing seasons as the ice turns to mud and the leaves brighten then fall again, Ivy searching for her missing daughter first on Earth then beyond the veil of the spiritual plane, calling for an echo which does not respond as Kurt tries to bury a truth which keeps surfacing to haunt him.
The fifth collaboration of “the Adams family,” The Deeper You Dig is written and directed by husband and wife creative team John Adams and Tobey Poser who also star as Kurt and Ivy while their younger daughter Zelda Adams is Echo, their elder daughter who normally completes the team away from home at university during production, with all serving in multiple other capacities behind the camera.
Shot in upstate New York, Beaver Kill River and “Trout Town” Roscoe in the Catskill Mountains are the stunning backdrop of a film which makes a virtue of its sparse production values; with no artifice or pretension, there is nothing for the performers to hide behind, Poser’s grief visible in her every harshly lit scene while Adams tries to bury himself in denial and physical exertion, a doomed attempt at reinventing himself.
The production blessed by serendipity, on the commentary on Arrow’s Blu-ray edition Poser and Adams talk of a simple shot of a street enhanced by the unexpected arrival of an ambulance with flashing lights, or of deer suddenly dashing across the road during a late night driving scene, the principal location the house which Adams was renovating during the shoot, a broken shell of shadow whose walls defy the light while Ivy exists in an arrangement of arcane objects without boundaries.
A family affair, at its core The Deeper You Dig is about the two people, he rational, she ritual, she who has lost, and he who is losing it, a low-key, proudly independent character drama tinged with the supernatural which wades increasingly into horror even as it seeks redemption, the external characters peripheral to these individuals whose fiercely private lives have been so profoundly disrupted.
In addition to the commentary, the Arrow edition of The Deeper You Dig also features an extended family discussion of the film, an interview from the London FrightFest screening which underage Zelda was unable to view despite having starred in it, an analysis of the recurring themes of the films of the Adams family by critic Anton Bitel, two Hellbender music videos, the name somewhat belying their grungy dreampop sound, and a second disc with the Adams’ 2018 Weird West revenge thriller The Hatred.