★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
A man going through some difficult times discovers $3 million on his new property, but it comes with ever-heavier emotional baggage and a corpse that won’t stay buried in this well-crafted chiller.
Directed by Michael P. Blevins
Fueled by a captivating lead performance from Ford Austin and a continually surprising screenplay from writer/director Michael P. Blevins, Digging to Death is a highly effective chiller that deserves to find a wide audience.
Austin stars as recent divorcee David Vanowen, who is going through a difficult time as he moves into a fixer-upper home and experiences work stress because of a demanding boss (Clint Jung as Mr. Wu) who keeps shortening deadlines. His adult daughter Jessica (Rachel Alig, who turned in a fine performance in the 2018 shocker The Cleaning Lady) is supportive, but wants to spend more time with her boyfriend.
David is determined to replace his own septic system, despite the skepticism of landscaper Allen Palms (Richard Riehle). When he begins the project, he uncovers $3 million — alongside a dead body (Tom Fitzpatrick). Not sure whether to report the situation to the authorities or to keep the money, David begins a slow descent into obsession and ultimately madness, not helped by the fact that he is haunted by the buried corpse.
Digging to Death is a technically sound, well-made independent feature. It combines both an engrossing character study and a riveting plot. Blevins helms the film and its pacing masterfully, as the mood goes from darkly seriocomic to dark and chilling, building to an uncompromising climax and ending. The screenplay is sharp and clever. A couple of characters would have been interesting to learn more about, including David’s best friend Mark (Ken Hudson Campbell), but that’s a minor point.
Though supported by a cast giving top-notch performances, Austin is outstanding as the troubled David. At the outset, David seems optimistic about his future at his new home and that he should be a shoe-in for an upcoming promotion at his work, and he looks forward to spending more quality time with his daughter. Once the weight of his secret discovery begins taking hld, however, the possibility of what could be begins to give way to paranoia. Austin handles all of the subtle nuances of his character superbly, aided by fine turns from the supporting cast.
Digging to Death offers a good share of shocks and kills, and the mystery behind the discovered corpse that seemingly won’t stay buried is another entertaining element, as well. This absorbing independent effort comes strongly recommended.
Digging to Death, from Uncork’d Entertainment, is available on DVD and Digital from June 1, 2021 .