5Dead by Dawn 2017 – Dig Two Graves Review
Director: Hunter Adams
Starring: Samantha Isler, Ted Levine, Danny Goldring, Troy Ruptash
Running time: 85mins
Many modern horror films are in a rush to go places and in place of solid storytelling try to distract the audience with regular bouts of gore and/or jump scares. This is not one of those films, in fact, the pacing is such that some modern horror fans may quickly lose patience with it but while “Dig Two Graves” is flawed it does reward patience and tells an absorbing tale.
The story takes place in two separate time lines. One set in 1947 while the other is set 30 years later (this is where the majority of the action takes place). With events that happen in the first having major repercussions for characters in the latter. One of the characters connecting the two time periods is Sheriff Waterhouse (Ted Levine) who is a young(ish) deputy in 1947 but by 1977 is the kind of grizzled old sheriff that is very familiar in movies. The character maybe a little on the clichéd side but it is play with both an authenticity and air of authority in a stand-out performance from Levine.
The later story mainly follows the Sherriff’s granddaughter Jake Mather (Samantha Isler) who is riven by grief and guilt after her brother dyes in a cliff diving accident which she was supposed to do as well but froze at the last second (not a spoiler by the way as this is all in the trailer). The character would do anything to bring her brother back which is what lead her to making a sinister deal with Wyeth (Troy Rusptash) who it appears may be a demonic figure or maybe he is simply some sort of gypsy grifter.
For a film that mainly relies on subtle suspense and eerie atmosphere the character of Wyeth seems a touch over the top compared to everything else going on and could almost be out of place but actually works quite well. As he is top-hatted and has a wicked laugh he could almost be a redneck “Coffin Joe”. Talking of referencing other films when we see the shack him and his brothers live there something’s there, especially Wyeth’s throne/chair that would not have looked out of place in the Leatherface family home.
The look of the movie generally looks back to another time as not only is part of the movie set in the 70’s but it has the feel of a slow burn 70’s horror as well. The setting is also use to full effect as while a story set in small town Americana where there is more going than first meets the eye is hardly original it is done effectively here and Hunter Adams does well in creating that American Gothic atmosphere throughout the film. He and his crew also do a very effective job, through quality cinematography, lighting and set design, of making the movie look much higher budget than it actually is.
It is not however without the flaws as some of the character are a bit on the clichéd side, the script is occasionally on the clunky side and while it slowly builds suspense nicely, the actual resolution when it comes is slightly unsatisfying. This does not however derail what is for the most part an eerily effective horror-mystery which contains not only one of Ted Levine’s finest performances but also an especially strong performance from Samantha Isler who makes the character of Jake compelling and sympathetic in a role that could have easily come across as whining and grating in the wrong hands.
Overall: A beautifully shot, haunting, slow-burn movie which will absorb some and frustrate others. While flawed in places there is plenty of good stuff here and a pair of stirring performances from Levine and Isler.