Monday, June 19, 2017

Is the Grave About a Size 14?

A great voice can elevate good acting to new tiers of greatness. It can also make it impossible to ever hear an actor speak without being taken back to an iconic role.
Such is often the case for Ted Levine, the man who made generations of plus-sized women avoid helping the needy and forever changed the way we think about lotion (specifically, that it should always go in the basket). 

It's a challenging weight an actor carries, but the good ones manage to overcome it when given enough opportunity.  

Quick Plot: In 1947, a small town's sheriff and deputy toss two bodies into the sea from a precarious hilltop. Afterwards, the deputy, clearly disgusted with the situation, de-badges his superior officer.

Cut to 30 years later, when aforementioned deputy (now played by Buffalo Bill himself in grizzled form, Ted Levine) has long been in charge and now carries the title of Sheriff Waterhouse. One day, his two teenage grandchildren decide to play in that same fated spot. Older Sean leaps into the water, never to bee seen again. The 12-ish Jake (short for Jacqueline and played incredibly well by young Samantha Isler) flees in horror, blaming herself for not making the jump.

Some time passes, but wounds don't really heal. Jake soon learns that maybe, they don't have to, at least if she can trust a trio of mysterious mountain men who perform a magic trick for her and claim to have the ability to bring Sean back from wherever he may be. The only catch? No devil does anything free of charge. Jake must sacrifice her friend Will, who just so happens to be the grandson of a certain familiar former sheriff.

Dig Two Graves goes for an interesting tone, and while it suffers a little from some odd pacing, the overall effect worked for me. It almost falls in that lite "slumber party horror" subgenre that I first thought of with Vincenzo Natali's Haunter. The parallel narratives of the cursed past and soon-to-be-reaping-said-curse future work in a fairly straightforward manner. While the former sheriff's behavior is a tad too hateful villain to fully click, the way it shapes Ted Levine's character works without the writing having to hammer it out.

The heart of Dig Two Graves is Jake's relationship with her grandfather, and it adds a fantastically sympathetic weight to the story. Levine has always been a great villain, but seeing him bond with his grieving granddaughter via hunting excursions and sweet tales of watching his family on film strips before a USO show overseas truly made me forget, at least for 90 minutes, the expression on Buffalo Bill's face when he drops a pile of business cards in front of Clarice Starling. That's not an easy feat.

High Points
I'm always drooling for films to be set in different time periods, and with its late 40s & 70s timeframe, Dig Two Graves does just that with good results. Having Levine's Waterhouse be a World War II veteran allows us some deeper introspection to the character, while keeping the "present" action in the '70s (without, thankfully, trying to hard to BE too '70s) helps to ground the action in a sort of technology-free realm. 

Low Points
While I did enjoy Troy Ruptash's eerily sexy head moonshiner Wyeth, there was something lacking in the overall presentation of the film's more occult leanings that just didn't quite engage me on the same level as Jake's family stuff

Lessons Learned
Carrying a load makes you stronger (and probably a lot more tired)

Quarries are good at keeping secrets (especially when they kill you and have none to tell)

To avoid freaking our your family after accepting a black magic deal, take two minutes and a moist towelette to wipe the glob of blood sticking to your face
Many a viewer--particularly a horror fan with certain expectations--is going to find Dig Two Graves slow and anticlimactic. I, on the other hand, found it engaging and fresh. It's nice to see different tales being told by skilled filmmakers, and while I doubt I'll ever rewatch Dig Two Graves, I'll definitely remember its strengths. 

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