The second feature from director/co-writer Hunter Adams (The Hungry Bull) is the kind of film that sneaks into a single screen somewhere in town and you wonder one of two things: why is this great movie only on one screen? Or, how does this junk get released when so many better film don’t? Dig Two Graves actually falls somewhere in the middle. While the film is certainly not priority viewing for either horror fans or fans of the more off-beat, it does feature a couple of key performances that might make it worthwhile.
Things begin intriguingly enough in Southern Illinois circa 1947 with two sheriffs dumping a pair of bodies into a flooded quarry. As soon as they’ve completed their unenviable task, one of them draws his gun on the other and declares that the other is not longer a sheriff. The film jumps ahead 30 years to the same ledge overlooking the quarry. This time brother Sean (Ben Schneider) and younger sister Jake (Samantha Isler) are preparing to dive in. Sean goes in first, never to surface again and eventually presumed dead, leaving Jake racked with guilt. Giving her some comfort is her grandfather, Sheriff Waterhouse (Ted Levine), whom we suspect is the character pointing the gun 30 years ago. But one day in the woods, Jake runs into a seemingly out-of-place and out-of-time stranger named Wyeth (Troy Ruptash) who runs with two equally odd-looking fellows. He proves to be even stranger when he attempts to strike a deal with Jake to bring her brother back (whether he means back from hiding or back to life is a bit unclear at first).
Dig Two Graves (which has been on the shelf for at least a couple of years) attempts to capture a bit of a Gothic horror vibe without diving too deep in big scares or blood and guts, and I certainly respect its ambition. Levine (best known as the skin-wearing serial killer Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs) is a magnificent character actor who simply devours this role, making Waterhouse a man spilling over with secrets and knowledge that he can’t keep quiet much longer in the face of these three strangers who have entered his granddaughter’s life. Director Adams (who co-wrote the film with Jeremy Phillips) does a nice job capturing the remote locations and small-town atmosphere, but a great number of the performances seem overplayed and slightly vague in their purpose.
As you might have guessed, there’s a supernatural element to the film that simply doesn’t work and isn’t nearly as compelling as the filmmakers believe it is. They especially don’t service the story because Levine is so compelling as an actual down-to-earth character that the supernatural aspects seem pointless when they aren’t nearly as interesting as he is. There are certainly things in Dig Two Graves to appreciate and even admire, but it doesn’t quite come together the way it it should to be looked at as a serviceable piece of low-grade creepy filmmaking or a worthy mystery. It’s a close call, but it’s not quite worth recommending outside of Levine’s performance.
The film opens today in Chicago exclusively at the AMC River East 21. You can also rent it digitally on Amazon and other streaming services.