The slow-burning supernatural thriller "Dig Two Graves" was co-written by Jeremy Phillips and director Hunter Adams, but if the credits said "based on a story by Stephen King," few viewers would be surprised. Like the best of King, Adams' film finds dread and mystery in the lives of ordinary folks haunted by their own pasts and literal demons.
Set mostly in the mid-'70s, with periodic flashbacks, "Dig Two Graves" deals with the aftermath of a choice made decades earlier by an alcoholic Illinois sheriff (played by Ted Levine). When his granddaughter Jacqueline (Samantha Isler) loses her beloved brother in a bizarre accident, she finds a band of backwoods bootleggers who insist they can bring him back, provided that she's willing to dig into the truth of what her grandpa did, and maybe follow his lead.
Adams withholds the full details of what happened long ago until the final 15 minutes; and as is often the case with stories like this, the reveal doesn't fully justify the build-up.
But that's mainly because "Dig Two Graves" does such a fine job of fleshing out the world of Jacqueline, her family, and this small town where creepy-looking, snake-handling mystics live in the woods and caves just outside of otherwise unremarkable working-class neighborhoods.
There's a lived-in quality to "Dig Two Graves" that's all-too-rare for low-budget movies in this genre. There's nothing artificially spooky about the setting or the situation. It feels like the audience could walk right onto the screen, and feel just as freaked out as the characters.
'Dig Two Graves'
Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills