Fantasia 2019 Review: ‘The Deeper You Dig’ is a Beautifully Sad Look at Grief and Guilt

The Deeper You Dig is a deeply impressive film. It is the passion project of family trio John Adams, Toby Poser, and their daughter Zelda Adams. All three of them took on the roles of stars, directors, writers, camera operators, and composers to create their film, The Deeper You Dig, a ghost story about coping with tragedy. It is truly a DIY film that exemplifies the power of indie filmmaking and the gorgeously devastating stories begging to be told. 

Shot in their hometown in upstate New York, The Deeper You Dig revolves around three players. First, there is 14-year-old Echo, played by Zelda, who is on the precipice of adulthood. She wears dark blue lipstick and openly declares her hatred for school, but also wants to spend all night sledding in freshly fallen snow. Then there is her mother, Ivy, who works as a medium and Tarot card reader. Lastly, there is their neighbor, Kurt, who carries a dark cloud around him that he tries to fight away with a steady stream of booze. One night, as he’s drunkenly driving home from the bar, he hits Echo as she’s sledding in the dark. In a fit of fear and desperation, Kurt brings hides her body and kills her when she regains consciousness. 

From here, the seasons begin to change. Snow melts, rain falls, trees blow, and Echo’s body remains hidden in the mud. Ivy desperately searches for her daughter and Kurt grapples with what he’s done. Why did he kill her? Why didn’t he just fess up to the accident? Perhaps even the most heinous acts are worse than confronting your own monstrosity. While the world goes on, both adults remain stuck in a grief- and guilt-filled stasis. But it begins to change as Echo’s ghost appears and starts harassing Kurt to tell the truth. Kurt and Ivy’s paths begin to intersect, twisting together into a gnarled snake full of hurt.

The Deeper You Dig is profoundly sad as it follows the two adult characters. Ivy dives into the occult to try to find her missing daughter. She wanders the streets calling for Echo and hands out fliers at the local gas station. Kurt isolates himself in his fixer-upper house, trying desperately to hide the body, digging deeper and deeper to keep his secret. The editing, combined with a lack of dialogue and music, amplifies our feelings of sorrow when we are alone with either of the characters. Their bodies sag, their faces drop, and everything just feels heavy.

Everything about The Deeper You Dig is beautiful. The landscape, full of trees, streams, and life, surrounds them, breathing and changing with every scene. It is almost fantastical, like something out of a Grimm fairytale: gorgeous, but with a stench of decay. While much of the film is routed in reality, there are brief moments set in another place, though we aren’t sure where. Ivy travels through the mysterious seven circles to find her daughter, but these circles are unpleasant. They are often set in the stark white snow with splashes of crimson blood as harbingers of death. While these moments are perhaps the most confusing of the film, they are gorgeous and unsettling. 

The Deeper You Dig is breathtaking and heartbreaking. A deep sense of melancholy washes over you as you watch Ivy search for her daughter and as Kurt tries to ignore Echo’s punk ghost. As both are parents, they are able to channel and portray different levels of grief. Paired with impressive visual effects, Adams, Poser, and Adams have created something truly special and horrifying. I cannot wait to see what they make next. 

Read more of our Fantasia 2019 coverage here.

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