J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Slamdance ’16: Dead Hands Dig Deep

Edwin Borsheim is the embodiment of all Tipper Gore’s worst fears, even her most outlandish. He is notorious to a select few as the front man of the extreme metal band Kettle Cadaver. For one unlikely moment, it looked like he band was building some momentum, but then reality set in. Since their implosion, Borsheim has existed in a highly unstable state of self-imposed exile. Filmmaker Jai Love ventured into Borsheim macabre lair, documenting his profoundly anti-social attitudes and behavior in Dead Hands Dig Deep, which screens during the 2016 Slamdance Film Festival.

This film is not for those who are weak of stomach or easily offended. Borsheim’s fame, such as it is, rests on his graphic stage excesses involving unsimulated self-mutilation. Apparently, Kettle Cadaver sold enough of their two shock videos to be in regular inventory at Tower Records. Be warned, there is a lot of blood in DHDD and it looks real enough. However, Borsheim willingly did it to himself, so there you have it. Frankly, Borsheim makes Insane Clown Posse look like the New Seekers and DHDD makes Last Days Here look like Mariah Carey’s A Christmas Melody.

Not surprisingly, Borsheim had trouble making his relationship with the love of his life work, so he crafted a wooden mannequin to take her place. When not passively aggressively threatening suicide, he manically fantasizes about shooting sprees and mass murder. At one point, he signed on for a planned campaign of hate crimes against Christian charities, but the conversation of an accomplice threw a spanner in the works. By the time someone pulls a copy of Mein Kompf off his shelf late in the film, it hardly registers anymore. The truth is DHDD would be deeply unsettling if it were a horror film. As a documentary, it is terrifying.

Yet, there is a point to DHDD beyond mere gawking. You do not need five minutes of psychiatric training to diagnose Borsheim’s clinical depression. He might have scared the snot out of Love and his Australian crew, but their camera became the closest thing in his world to a psychiatrist’s couch.

Still, the trappings of death and witchcraft surrounding Borsheim speak volumes. We try to avoid cursing here, but there is no other way to say it: this film is fucked up. It is just one WTF after another. Slamdance has programmed some adventurous docs in the past, like Kung Fu Elliot and The Institute, but DHDD is in a league by itself. Love is probably still suffering from shellshock, but he and his crew deserve all kinds of credit for guts and perseverance. Highly recommended for those who appreciate hardcore metal, hardcore documentaries, and hardcore reality, Dead Hands Dig Deep screens again this Wednesday (1/27) in Park City, as part of this year’s Slamdance.

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