Let’s face it. Revenge film are pretty cliché. So are those “What would you do for love?” films. They’re also fun as hell when done right. As the saying goes, it’s the journey that’s important, not the destination. The development of the protagonist, their grief and their rage, and the moral conflicts that arise when they finally have a chance to do what they need to do all make for a great story. In director, producer and co-writer Hunter Adams’ Dig Two Graves, those two stories are skillfully woven together, but that’s only a part of what makes this film so entertaining.
After her brother Sean’s apparent death at a local quarry, Jake Mather (Samantha Isler) can’t get past what happened. She also can’t get past the feeling that her brother is being replaced by her mother Isabelle’s (Kara Zediker) pregnancy. Distraught, Jake manages to find some solace in befriending a boy at school named Willie (Gabriel Cain). One day after school, Jake happens upon a trio of brothers, led by Wyeth Buchta (Troy Ruptash). The brothers’ family are gypsies who live in the local woods. They make an offer to Jake to bring back her brother, but at a cost. Jake doesn’t realize that the Buchta family has history with her own family, specifically her grandfather, Sheriff Waterhouse (Ted Levine), and what he witnessed years ago.
There’s always an indie film that comes along that makes the most of what’s at hand and then some. Dig Two Graves is certainly one of them. The production values are top notch. From the camerawork and editing, to the set pieces and to the score, the film approaches the look and feel of a Hollywood-tier production. Being that the film is set in 1977, with some brief flashbacks to 1947, the attention to detail is amazing. Dollar bills are accurate to the time period, as are the clothing and cars. It also helps that the film was shot in southern Illinois, capturing the beautiful midwestern countryside and some gorgeous scenery that not only evokes that moment in time, but also cements it.
This is all just a setup for the fantastic story and acting. As mentioned, the film’s main story is in 1977, with another storyline from 1947. The alternate storyline is transitioned to seamlessly at points throughout the film that is easy to follow and perfectly paced, all the while peeling back the layers to reveal more about the incident that involved the two families. It’s stuff like this that hooks you in and keeps you watching. As is (for me, at least) the relationship between Jake and her grandfather. It’s beautifully written and reminds me of my own strong connection with my grandfather when he was around. This is all of course accentuated by the great acting by both Ted “Buffalo Bill from Silence Of The Lambs” Levine, and newcomer Samantha Isler. Levine gets the grandfather role, but also adds on the necessary guilt and gruff component for the character. This juggling of the two sides, and the pain that ensues from the conflict, is great to see. As for Isler, she also communicates her grief over the loss of her brother effectively, while never becoming overbearing. She too displays conflicting emotions well, and makes for an impressive performance.
Any real negatives about Dig Two Graves are minor. In spite of the interactions and the strength of Jake’s relationships with her mother and her grandfather, the relationship with Jake and her dad is barely explored. Also, despite having the strong ties to her grandfather and her brother, and the conflict that arises when confronted with the price she must pay, Jake seemingly has no qualms about lying to her grandfather or stealing from him in order to bring back Sean. But I suppose that would also tie into the problem of what someone would do for love, wouldn’t it?
Screw the nitpicking, however. Dig Two Graves is an amazing thriller of a film. The atmosphere crafted by the production is so impressive for an independent feature, and the acting by the film’s two leads, as well as the expertly-crafted story, make for an awesome time. Sure, it’s not on the darker side of what many horror fans would want, but dammit, it’s a strong film that shows that there can be more to a film than just a simple love or revenge plot. Definitely give it a watch.
Dig Two Graves is theaters and on iTunes March 24th.