‘Dead Hands Dig Deep’: Slamdance Review

This documentary portrait of troubled punker Edwin Borsheim is a tough watch, but tougher to shake.

Meet Edwin Borsheim.  Or maybe you’d rather not.

As the front man for the notorious ‘90s Southern California punk band, Kettle Cadaver, Borsheim, a dude with a thing for hardcore self-mutilation, would regularly sicken and delight fans by stapling his face or humping a coyote carcass.

The Bottom Line

A haunting study of depravity.

Two decades later, young Australian filmmaker Jai Love finds the 38-year-old Borsheim holed up in his creepy Temecula compound in the penetrating documentary, Dead Hands Dig Deep, which proves to be more an unflinching look at one man’s descent into certifiable madness than a shock rock Behind the Music.

While the film begins as a graphic Kettle Cadaver primer—one show in particular was shut down after just 26 seconds—it soon shifts its attention from fans and former bandmates to the main attraction.

Borsheim, who initially comes across as the bastard child of Iggy Pop and Rob Zombie, leads the viewer on a tour through the veritable house of horrors where he has lived in seclusion, crammed with blood-curdling artifacts, as well as a wooden effigy of his ex-wife, Eva O, who had been in a prior relationship with Richard Ramirez, the late serial killer known as “The Night Stalker”

In between those relatively lucent moments, Borsheim spews violent threats at the camera or is given to fits of fevered rambling that would indicate there was never a need to create a separate stage persona.

As director Love probes Borsheim’s formative years in an area of California were heroin addiction continues to be rampant, speaking to family members including his estranged mother (a woman with considerable ssues of her own) Dead Hands Dig Deep proceeds to dig unexpectedly deeply, transcending its sensationalistic freak show beginnings to emerge as a haunting examination of the manifestation of deep-rooted mental illness.

Production company: Lonesome Pictures

Director: Jai Love

Screenwriters: Spencer Heath, Jai Love

Producers: Alan Love-LaPan, Spencer Heath

Cinematographer: Hazal Alakus

Editor: Conlan Mackenzie

Composers: Jeremiah Weber & Spencer Heath

Venue: Slamdance Film Festival

75 minutes