J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Dig Two Graves: They Hold Grudges in These Parts

Evidently, if you go south enough in downstate Illinois (bootlegger country) it starts to look downright Southern. In this rural 1970s community, adherence to superstition far exceeds job creation. Violence is rooted in the very land and Sheriff Waterhouse helped plant the bloody seeds. Consequently, he will have to face up to his karma in Hunter Adams’ Dig Two Graves (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Jake Mather made the right decision when she declined to dive from a natural scenic overlook into the rocky waters below, with her beloved older brother Sean. However, she still inevitably blames herself for his resulting watery demise—or rather his presumptive demise. There are so many caverns and ledges in that watering hole, his body will probably never be found.

Unfortunately, a trio of brothers will exploit her uncertainty and guilt, as part of a scheme targeting her grandfather, craggy, crotchety Sheriff Waterhouse. As members of a demonic snake worshipping cult, they appear to possess supernatural powers. They will offer Mather a Faustian bargain: Sean’s resurrection in exchange for the life of Willie Proctor, the bullied grandson of Waterhouse’s predecessor and former boss, with whom he is not on good terms.

For the most part, Two Graves seems to be a horror movie, but it becomes much more ambiguous during the third act. Regardless, there is nothing more sinister in Adams’ film than the past. It also has a strong sense of place. Many viewers will mistake the Southern Illinois setting for Appalachia, but they are really not so far wrong. The point is, this is a community where people know some pretty twisted secrets about their neighbors.

Two Grave has another major claim to coolness: the great Ted Levine (the other serial killer in Silence of the Lambs) taking care of business as Waterhouse. He brings the attitude, swaggering and glowering like a junkyard dog, but he also develops a rather endearing rapport with his granddaughter Jake (played with unflagging earnestness by Samantha Isler).

As mean old Proctor, Danny Goldring goes toe-to-toe with Levine, chewing the scenery and clearly enjoying his despicable villainy. To be honest, he and Levine look like they just have baking flour caked on their faces during their frequent flashbacks scenes (jumping back thirty years), but they still strut and snarl like old pros. If you need any more genre credentials on top of all that, keep in mind the joint is executive produced by Larry Fessenden.

Adams certainly gives us a macabre portrayal of hill-and-hollow country, but he never shows contempt for his hardscrabble characters. In fact, he respects them for being survivors, even the bad guys. Recommended for fans of horror and dark suspense, Dig Two Graves opens this Friday (3/24) in New York, at the Cinema Village.

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