Tag Archives: John Adams

Hell Bent

Hellbender

by Hope Madden

Unusual family dynamics tend to be at the heart of movies made by Adams Family Films, a collective that shares writing, directing, and acting duties.

They’re also a family: co-writer/co-director/co-star/mom Toby Poser, co-writer/co-director/dad John Adams, co-writer/co-director/co-star/daughter Zelda Adams, co-star/daughter Lulu Adams. No word on Cousin It.

The clan’s 2019 horror The Deeper You Dig centered on the bond between mother and daughter, both outsiders in a rural mountain town. The Family’s latest, Hellbender, orbits similar territory.

Poser — again cutting an impressive cinematic figure — is a mother who keeps her teenage girl Izzy (Zelda Adams) far, far from prying eyes. The two enjoy each other’s company, even playing in a 2-person punk band (bass & drums, hell yeah!) called Hellbender.

But Izzy is lonely, and she’s beginning to distrust her mother’s claims that illness prevents socialization. Izzy doesn’t feel sick.

It turns out, Mom isn’t trying to protect Izzy. She’s trying to protect everybody else.

A soundtrack full of the band’s music creates an effective atmosphere of rebellion, anger and evil. Zelda Adams haunts the film, a central figure of awkwardness and naivete blossoming with power.

There’s barely another face onscreen and even fewer behind the camera. Aside from Trey and Samantha Lindsay, who pull crew duties, every role from costume design to sound, editing to cinematography to music is handled by a member of the family.

They are impressive. Hellbender looks great. It sounds great. The story is fluid and creepy, punctuated with psychedelic carnage and informed by lived-in relationships.

A muddy backstory and slight anticlimax keep the film from utterly beguiling, but the coming-of-age center impresses. Hellbender delivers a moral ambiguity that questions society’s fear of female power.

The Adams Family doesn’t represent a gimmick or a “good for you for trying” brand of filmmaking. These people are the real deal and I look forward to their next effort.

Grave Digger

The Deeper You Dig

by Hope Madden

Micro-budget horror movie The Deeper You Dig is co-written and co-directed by husband and wife John Adams and Toby Poser, who co-star alongside their daughter Zelda Adams. This is a story about an unusual family created by an unusual family.

The film centers on a close if unconventional mother/daughter duo (Poser and Adams the younger). The two make ends meet in a rugged mountain town by taking advantage of townies looking to hear their fortunes. But when her daughter goes missing, Ivy (Poser) reconnects with her long-forgotten abilities to determine what the police can’t.

Poser is particularly impressive, and what may be the most intriguing thing about the way the film is written is how both Ivy and daughter Echo are characterized. No cliché suits these two—each is carved out uniquely, a blend of dissonant ideas that feel authentically human. Their undiscussed but clearly present “outsider” nature only serves to underscore their emotional need for each other, which gives the mystery resonance and adds a little integrity to the supernatural elements as well.

Ivy’s relationship with new-in-town Kurt (John Adams) is even more peculiar—rightly so. Adams the elder delivers a twisty, haunted performance that’s the real heart of the film’s horror. His work is both physical and emotional, with personality changes that never feel forced or showy.

Not every performance is as strong as the central three, and not every beat in the plot works. Certain moments feel pulled from TV melodramas, and the film’s micro-budget is most felt whenever CGI is employed.

But The Deeper You Dig makes an excellent case for seeking out low-budget indies. It’s creepy and satisfying. It explodes clichés, keeps you guessing, and takes advantage of the clear trust among the actors to create an unusual and compelling family dynamic.

Even with its handful of missteps, The Deeper You Dig clearly represents a group of filmmaking talent to keep an eye on.