Opening the 2019 Fantasia Film Festival Underground program this year was a surprising indie film, and one of the festival’s major discoveries, from a family of filmmakers that put everything they have into their DIY projects. The Deeper You Dig, which celebrated its world premiere at the festival July 11, is a surreal supernatural thriller and pure tarot-card-sploitation.
Family members Toby Poser, John Adams, and Zelda Adams are the multi-hyphenates other multi-hyphenates hope to be when they grow up. They share writing, directing, and producing credits, they themselves are the films three leads, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It would be a much shorter list to highlight what they didn’t do in the film. And for that reason, The Deeper You Dig is a very personal film about grief and loss that will warm your heart and haunt you.
The Deeper You Dig is a very personal film about grief and loss that will warm your heart and haunt you.
After the sudden disappearance of her daughter, Ivy (Toby Poser) walks from house to house in her rural town handing out Missing posters, looking for clues. She knows in her bones that her daughter didn’t run away but there is no trace of her anywhere and local police can only do so much. Down the road, Kurt (John Adams) is flipping an old, run-down house and trying his best to forget an awful night that changed his life forever. Several drinks too many, Kurt was driving home when he ran over something in the dark. That decision and his attempts to cover it up haunt him relentlessly but it isn’t until the spirit of Ivy‘s daughter Echo appears that he realizes no one ever really gets away with murder. Ivy and Echo, two souls both with a foot in the physical and spiritual world, chip away at Kurt until he is no longer able to deny his actions or delay justice.
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Although she has reduced her practice to lonely widows looking to speak to their late spouses, Ivy is a skilled and powerful medium. Her link to the world of influence around her is not as strong as it once was but she can feel her daughter’s presence and does not once doubt that immaterial connection. The whispers swirling around her pale in comparison to the bond they shared in life but it’s the strength of that relationship that has allowed her any access to her daughter’s wandering spirit. And while it might not be hard to believe that real-life mother and daughter Toby Poser and Zelda Adams could present characters so close, the strength in their performances is what makes their story touching, heart-breaking, and haunting.
Ivy goes to the literal ends of the world, losing herself in an introspective universe of self-reflection and discovery that is as avant-garde as they come. Fans of the strange and unusual will especially appreciate the execution of these Carlos Castaneda-esque vision quests that turn tarot cards into flesh and blood characters. The courage of Ivy’s convictions is strong but when evidence of her daughter’s fate can not be found in the material world, she pierces the veil to upend her fundamental conception of reality. And it’s one hell of a trip.
For Kurt, this field trip into the dark side of town is unlike anything he has ever experienced. Ivy is more comfortable holding hands with the unknown, but Kurt is slow to understand what is happening around him. As the other side begins to peek out from around the corners, his mind crumbles and ours goes along with him for the ride. The soundscape of Kurt’s decline is designed to pull you down under. When Echo first appears, you can feel in your bones that something is not right. This place is not safe. We’re unsure of Kurt’s fate, and the more you see him wriggle under the weight of a 1000 pound paranormal gorilla the more you’re sure he’s already doomed. The goal for mom and her dearly departed daughter is strange, and I’m not sure I 100% bought it in the end, but it is true their characters and a compromise any mother is sure to make.
“…an accomplishment of truly indie filmmaking…”
The Deeper You Dig is an accomplishment of truly indie filmmaking, that represents an idea brought to life with love and care, and a unique presentation. I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen another movie where a character is force-fed a dead snake as a visual metaphor for clarity and realization. The three leads in the film also hold credits for practically every other crew position from sound design to camera operation. The Deeper You Dig is a family album from the Adams’ that tells you everything you need to know about the tight, sometimes messy, but unconditional bonds of a parent and their child that go beyond life and death.
The Deeper You Dig celebrated its world premiere at the 2019 Fantasia Film Festival Thursday, July 11 as the opening film for the Fantasia Underground program. The Fantasia Film Festival runs until August 1, 2019 in beautiful Montreal, Canada. Click HERE to check out all of our continued coverage of the festival, and be sure to follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to see silly photos, immediate film reactions, and the occasional photo of lunch.