One should never judge a movie by its production, but with the case of The Deeper You Dig, it’s hard not to bring knowledge of how it was made into things. The film is basically a three person effort between Toby Poser, her husband John Adams, and their daughter Zelda Adams. Credited to “The Adams Family”, The Deeper You Dig is literally a homespun effort. Rather than some meaningless bit of fun trivia, this plays into how you watch the film. You pretty much never see all three of them in the same frame, for instance, because one of them must be holding the camera. If a scene takes place in a house, it is likely their home you’re looking at. Virtually every aspect of the film, save for about four side character performances, was executed first-hand by this trio.
As such, there is a sense of rooting for the film to succeed that impacts how you watch it. That wouldn’t likely be the case if the film were an all-out disaster. Instead, The Deeper You Dig is just effective and interesting enough for audiences to happily let its rougher moments pass.
There isn’t a whole lot of story. A mother and her daughter live a quiet life out in the country. They appear to have a fun and healthy relationship. The mother is a sham psychic, while the daughter enjoys hunting and sledding (okay, we don’t get to know her all that well).
Up the road, a man works on a dilapidated house, trying to fix it up and flip it for cash. One night while driving home from having one drink too many, he accidentally hits the daughter with his truck. He buries her and gets away with it as far as authorities are concerned, but her spirit haunts him. And her mother’s awakened psychic ties spell bad news for him as well.
It gets more complicated and weird from there, but this isn’t a film with a whole lot of activity. It moves slowly and its 95 minutes take a lot longer to go by than you’d expect. On the other hand, the film at times is gorgeous, particularly the details in its outdoor cinematography. The devil is in the details, here. From folding production realities into how scenes play out to witnessing the changes that take place as an entire year appears to go by in the background, there are all kinds of ways The Deeper You Dig keeps you interested.
The homemade aspect of the film also allows for left turns and tonal diversions you wouldn’t normally see, even within independent cinema. The filmmakers are limited but not ignorant - this is no wrongheaded, audacious bit of outsider art. And with the quality on display, The Deeper You Dig’s questionable elements end up feeling more thrilling than mere demerits, lending the film a fun originality. Sometimes it tries for something - an effect, a sequence of action - and fails, bordering on amateurish. These moments do not break the film, however, but add a level of endearment.
And not all these swings are misses. Some are home runs. The film’s dream sequences are quite special. It has great and interesting sound design throughout. You never know quite where the story is headed because the tropes are all a bit skewed. Sometimes the film even goes for higher theatrics - such as scenes where the mother works and is lit so we only see her and the props directly in front of her - and nails it.
There’s a lot to enjoy with a movie like this. The story and its execution is interesting in and of itself, but the added layer of what all went into it helps push it into a level beyond its ilk without rendering it a mere novelty.