Dig Two Graves, 2017.
Directed by Hunter Adams.
Starring Samantha Isler, Ted Levine, Danny Goldring, Troy Ruptash, Rachael Drummond, Dean Evans, and Bradley Grant Smith.
A girl’s obsession with her brother’s disappearance leads her on a nightmarish journey through a small town’s Gothic landscape where she is faced with a deadly proposition. How far will she go to save the people she loves?
It baffles the mind as to how Dig Two Graves apparently premiered at a New Orleans film festival in 2014, yet is only now receiving some form of distribution. That’s not to say it’s a masterful work of perfection, but well, it’s miles better than quite a bit of what gets released on-demand. It would easily be arguable that the film contains a star-making performance from Samantha Isler, except last year’s Captain Fantastic already accomplished something to that effect. However, here she is a naïve young soul consumed by the mysterious disappearance/death of her brother, and a seedy proposition grounded in ritualistic voodoo to bring him back into existence.
Directed by Hunter Adams, Dig Two Graves functions as a macabre mystery, honing in on themes of loss, grief, and (as to be expected from the film’s title derived from the popular ancient Chinese proverb), revenge. His experience is one heightened in atmosphere thanks to its eerie, 1970s backwoods Louisiana reminiscent settings and spooky cabins, along with some fairly striking establishing shots and cinematography (especially for a sophomore feature). Ted Levine (most known for creeping everyone out as Buffalo Bill decades ago in Silence of the Lambs) plays the aforementioned young girl’s grandfather, who is also her only real source of consolation regarding the tragedy. He is also a hard-liquor drinking Sheriff to the quiet rural surroundings, also carrying some vast knowledge of the fantasy elements and history of the town due to his own baggage filled past.
All of the main components involved give very restrained and nuanced performances that demand viewers to dig deeper into their psyche, but regardless, some of the plot is offputtingly predictable with some characters lacking in definition. Jake’s (Samantha Isler) mission given to her from the enigmatic redneck Duck Dynasty looking magicians is to get a fellow classmate (who is already the butt of the school’s bullying) to leap off the same cliff into the same body of water that her brother went missing in, all in return for getting him back, but it’s really no surprise where this entire arc will end. Furthermore, the movie definitely drags getting to this point, as it dribbles out flashbacks in the meantime. Admittedly, there is the sensation that there are too many flashbacks, as the movie desperately wants to tie together its revenge story.
With that said, Dig Two Graves does cut between past and present day with some subtle yet stylistic editing techniques. As previously mentioned, the movie looks highly professional and will never cause anyone to ever for a second feel that it’s coming from the work of an amateur. Hunter Adams clearly has an understanding of how to make a film. Whether its bizarre rituals involving chowing down on snakes, revenge-fueled shootouts in a middle-of-nowhere cabin or the few impressive underwater shots, the movie’s exceptional visuals are more than enough to draw viewers in and keep them captivated. It also helps that the film doesn’t even crack the 90-minute mark, although, on the other hand, a few minor characters could have used more development. For example, all we know what Jake’s mother is that she’s depressed from the incident that took away her son, and from there we are given little to nothing else to go on. It would also be nice learning more about the town and its mythology, but there will be some that appreciate some of its more abstract qualities.
Even if it is annoyingly obvious where Dig Two Graves is headed for the majority of its brief running time, it’s a pleasantly icky mystery that boasts some strong Southern drawl laced performances and appropriate macabre visual design to increase the unnerving atmosphere. Perhaps most fascinating is that while the title suggests the film is centered on revenge, it’s also a coming-of-age dark fairytale. Definitely check this one out on-demand, and to go one step further, try doing so in an actual theater solely for the visuals and to enhance the already hypnotic atmosphere.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★