Any initial thoughts David has of reporting his discovery to the police are soon overshadowed by the thought of the large pile of money and what good it could do in terms of improving both his life and the lives of others around him. Daughter Jessica (Rachel Alig) needs financial assistance and David’s once bright prospects of promotion at the tech company he works for appear to be dimming by the day.
All seems well with David’s unexpected windfall until the corpse starts showing up around the place and our anti-hero’s already fraying nerves from his recent stresses and strains threaten to shred even further and tip him over into full-blown insanity. Can he keep the dead guy at bay and what will he do to keep his hands on the cash?
Writer/director Michael P. Blevins’ horror thriller is an odd one, a mix of the creepily effective and the downright clunky that holds the interest in spite of – and possibly because of – some strange choices along the way. The corpse himself, played by Tom Fitzpatrick, is a wonderful creation, a nightmarishly hilarious Carnival Of Souls type who’s good for providing a couple of startling appearances early on in the piece.
As the story progresses, there’s less of a focus on the dead body and more emphasis on David’s deteriorating mental state as he grows increasingly paranoid and his behaviour lurches from one erratic episode to another. At one point he turns up at work completely oblivious to the fact that he has blood on him, a fact which does not go unnoticed by his boss Mr. Wu (Clint Jung) who isn’t an uncaring bloke but also needs that project finished, damn it!
It’s moments like these which amp up the weirdness in Digging To Death but also undermine the central premise. The assorted characters in David’s office line up to comment about how far David has gone off the rails but not one of them thinks there might be a reason to call any of the emergency services, whether it’s a medic for their colleagues parlous psychological state or the cops who might want to ask where the blood came from.
Those work-related vignettes are a fine example of the variable level of performances in this movie. As the lead, Austin does a decent job in a role which has him switch from caring dad to terrified homeowner to total psychopath but he’s generally not that well served by the support. Riehle is good but his appearance is fleeting and Alig is sympathetic as the daughter who’s trying to make sense of the changes in her father.
Ken Hudson Campbell, as David’s best friend Mark, cuts an interesting figure as a character who is not at all cast from the classic cinematic buddy mould. He’s flawed, he’s real, he’s interesting and he needed more screen time to be honest. As for the rest of the cast, the antics of some of the players take the viewer out of some scenes because they’re either overacting or not really acting at all.
True, most of the heavy lifting in terms of the drama in the movie is on Austin’s shoulders, even playing against himself in a couple of amusing and low-key chilling sequences but as soon as he’s back at work, sitting at his PC and his fellow employees are stopping by for a chat then everything dissipates – tension, laughs, drama, you name it. There’s no wonder his job is doing his anxiety no favours, I’d be ready to kill after a day of working there.
And yet, despite all of this, there’s something inexplicably compelling at play here. The plot doesn’t always turn in the ways you’d expect, the kills are not especially gory but they’re still brutal – and blackly comic - in their own offbeat way and the ending doesn’t cop out, replacing a predictable last-minute rescue with something far darker and sadder.
Digging To Death is a head-scratching mix of the good and the bad. For every piece of dialogue which lands there’s a couple of lines that no human being would ever say. The corpse is a creepy joy to behold but there’s a feeling that the story doesn’t know quite what to do with him in the second half. There are efficient shocks from time to time but there’s also a tiresome dream within a dream jump scare. The performances range from engaging to mesmerizingly stilted. People die in horrible ways but the gruesome business is almost always out of shot.
Is it great? Is it terrible? I think it’s neither. It’s worth a watch for when it gets things right but be prepared for the number of times it doesn’t hit the mark.