A snarky little goth (with fabulous lipstick) meets her maker on a mountain road courtesy of a drunk driver. Her mum, a smoke and mirrors medium amidst a mass of weatherworn dark curls, makes it her business to find out what’s happened. The Deeper You Dig mixes a realistic aesthetic with trippy techno surrealism in this daringly inventive film that questions whether love is the key to accessing the secrets of the universe, or if hoping is just the way to madness. That writer-directors John Adams and Toby Poser also star convincingly as the two leads (the drunk and the mother respectively) is astounding.
The glorious aspect of The Deeper You Dig is its willingness to stylistically ping-pong through the psyche as the story shifts ground. The medium’s hokey early act is painted with the floating heads of any dodgy old horror, but with self-referential camera angles that make it clear it’s not exactly clear who is being conned by the supernatural. Later sequences when the local cops investigate the murder are believably low-key, down to repeated close-ups on scabby fingernails. The best work however is on the incorporation of the pop-occultism, which shifts from bug-eyed trance sequences to physical evocations of grief and a great turn from a medium who’s been there and back. All of this is emphasised by a cracking score that manages to make digital manipulation emphatic and considered. What’s more, while there are a few jump scares, they serve to add atmosphere and increase empathy rather than simply startle. That the film indulges in a brief game of ‘spin the tail on the ending’ is to be forgiven because of these daring touches.
The cast don’t hurt either. Poser’s grieving mother hopscotches between being believably downtrodden in losing her faith that a good outcome will happen and bug-eyed enough for you to believe she’s desperate enough to try anything. The freewheeling sense she lends is counteracted by Zelda Adams as young Echo, who has gothic gravitas down to a tee (even when appearing in rather peculiar places). John Adams is suitably convincing as the loner trying to keep his head. Even the landscape becomes a character, with the snow-covered hillsides and house itself mirroring the desperate return to normality.
The Deeper You Dig weaves tricksy imagery with grounded performances to create a tale in which you might just find you’re rooting for the wrong person… and play the fool enough to love it regardless.