Expectations can play a big part in our perception of a movie. Because I had unfairly high expectations, I was highly disappointed by the trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. If it turned out to be the greatest trailer of all time, then perhaps it may meet my bar. There is something refreshing about coming to a movie unburdened by any preconceived thoughts. To be unbridled by press tours and trailers is something that is all too rare in our current age of media overload. That’s how I came to Hunter Adams’ slyly effective thriller, Dig Two Graves. It felt liberating to know nothing, and have no notions of what or where this story would go. This is the type of film that was easy to find in the early 2000s, but as the theatrical experience dwindled and video stores closed, films like it have been harder and harder to find. Adams’ film is a micro-budget picture that looks and moves like a moderately-priced studio release. It is steeped in rich, small town, gothic fairytales that is equal parts Stephen King and Flannery O’Connor. Unlike most supernatural horror thrillers, Adams’ film centers on loss. It is entrenched in the lives of both the protagonist, Jake (Samantha Isler), and her grandfather, Sherriff Waterhouse (Ted Levine). The film centers on Jake’s inability to come to terms with the loss of her brother, Sean, (Ben Schneider) whose death she feels personally responsible for. She carries this weight every day, and because of it, she is fixated upon bringing him back. Through a series of supernatural events linked to a long-time feud between her grandfather and the former Sheriff, Proctor (Danny Goldring), Jake is forced to make what would be an easy decision to an outsider looking in. She is presented with an option to save her brother, but in doing so, she must take the life of someone else. This decision, if you aren’t the one who is dealing with the loss, should be an easy one. You don’t kill someone else so that you can be reunited with someone you love. That isn’t the way life works and it isn’t the way morality works. But Jake feels the guilt and responsibility of her brother’s loss so deeply that it blinds her moral compass. This film presents itself like an exploitation horror at times, but it is much more concerned with these moral questions than anything else. The exploitation aspects of the film are actually the worst elements. They aren’t bad because they aren’t skillfully handled, they just don’t belong in this movie. Adams has a deft sense of location. The film, shot in Illinois, wrings every ounce of production value that it can. The film is stark and gorgeous. There is a constant drab tone to the color scheme that serves as direct contrast to the opening scene where Jake’s brother dies. It is the performances, though, that make the film more than the sum of its parts. We get to see a side of Ted Levine that I’m not sure we have ever seen. His performance is the emotional anchor of the movie that keeps everything balanced. Levine doesn’t have to embody the loss of his character, he practically wears it like a second skin. We haven’t used Ted Levine to the height of his abilities for the last few decades and for that, we should be grievously sorry. The performance by Samantha Isler as Jake is also quite strong. Adams relies on Isler to act through silence a lot of the time. She has retreated into herself and Isler conveys this with ease. I’m not sure what Adams is working on now, but this film certainly has me curious to see where he goes from here. Dig Two Graves has an intimacy that you don’t see in genre films very often. He cares equally about the revenge plot and the grieving from Jake’s loss, and he understands that one doesn’t work without the other. Although the exploitation elements don’t serve the film any favors, Dig Two Graves is the type of low budget indie thriller that deserves a larger audience than it has so far received. This is the type of thoughtful film that I hope gives Hunter Adams enough clout to do whatever he wants to next. Dig Two Graves is available now On Demand. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.