I tried to find some reason to care for the new documentary, “Dead Hands Dig Deep,” which made its premiere at the Slamdance Film Festival over the weekend. I really did. And when the main subject of the film starts off by saying he daydreams about killing “every f**king person” and then proceeds to drop even more f-bombs before the five-minute mark, I thought we’d be in for an interesting look into the psyche of this man about whom I’d known nothing. But this documentary just tells us about all the things he did, and all the things that has happened to him, and it doesn’t really go any deeper (pun intended) than that.
The main subject of “Dead Hands Dig Deep” is Edwin Borsheim, the former lead singer of a heavy metal band called Kettle Cadaver. Since the band’s separation, he’s isolated himself from everyone, even his own family. But before all this, he was considered one of the most controversial artists out there. Though Kettle Cadaver never really scored as big as other bands during its time (1990s), the band’s fame came mostly from Borsheim’s antics during live performances. He would perform various acts of self-mutilation, such as stapling his genitals and smash his head with bats that had spikes. He would get into fights with fans, and encourage them to commit suicide. We even see snippets of reviews from certain shows – one indicating that a performance was cancelled literally 26 seconds after it had begun.
Maybe it’s my lack of knowledge on the band’s music or on their antics, but I spent a good portion of the documentary thinking to myself, “Why should I care?” The images are horrifying to look at, and it’s astonishing to think someone would do this to themselves. But “Dead Hands Dig Deep” only shows us the things Borsheim would do without really getting into much detail beyond that. There is mention of a troubled childhood – with his parents divorcing at a young age and his father committing suicide. There is also talk of other significant aspects of his life. But the film only shows us the information rather than giving us a deep analysis.
The subject itself does make for great documentary material. And anyone can be attracted to something they may have little knowledge of or no interest in. But “Dead Hands Dig Deep” doesn’t quite go that far, and after witnessing all of the horrifying things that Borsheim has done to himself, it’s hard to find much sympathy for him and how his life is now.