Written by J. Weagle
Just because you haven’t seen them… doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
Digging Up the Marrow is a film that young fifteen year old me would’ve absolutely adored. It’s a film that not only tells a story but one that creates an entire wonderland to think about and pick apart long after it is finished. There are a lot of questions brought up, none of which are actually answered and that’s fine. To its credit the mystery probably helps to elevate the very novel and creative idea. However for every one thing Digging Up the Marrow does right, it does at least one thing wrong along with it creating a very intriguing, fun to watch at times mess about a secret civilization of monsters and one crazed man who believes in them.
Before I really start discussing the negatives I would like to point out that I have been a fan of Adam Green’s work in the past. The first two Hatchet movies are some of the most fun a person can have watching a horror film, with at least one of them ranking extremely high on my favourite slashers of all time list. Why those films are so good, and what Green has somewhat become known for (not unlike Eli Roth) is injecting plenty of humour into his films. In the past this mixture of gruesome horror and ridiculous comedy has worked seamlessly for him, but not here.
The plot outline for Digging Up the Marrow is one that just about any horror fan can get behind. Adam Green plays himself in this fauxumentary (mockumentary?) where he begins discussing all the cool and bizarre fan mail he receives, most importantly a package he has received from a retired detective named William Dekker (Ray Wise). Dekker claims that he has seen, and can prove that monsters exist and roam at night. Green who along with his camera buddy believes that Dekker is nothing more than a senile old man telling stories, decides true or not he should at least make a documentary about the man. However deep down it becomes clear that Green wants the stories to be true (after all who wouldn’t?) and is desperate to capture footage of them.
Dekker believes that he has found the entrance to the underground metropolis where the monsters live which he has dubbed the “Marrow”. I won’t go too far into talking about everything Dekker claims or the stories he shares with Green but we get plenty of backstory and history from Dekker brought to life by amazing artwork (created by Alex Pardee) as he details past run in’s, etc. This is where the film really begins to buckle for me and though the performance from Wise is well done the added humour brought to life by Green’s poor writing and even worse his poor acting really put a damper on thing.
In fact the biggest problem with Digging Up the Marrow is Green himself. He is the lead which means he is the one in front of the camera for the entirety of the film and it doesn’t take long for the audience to grow to hate him. The whole thing becomes an Adam Green circle jerk fest used to promote his upcoming and past work. I understand what the original intent was, but truth be told Green just isn’t that likeable and when he is suppose to come off as a wonder-eyed child who just discovered Neverland it plays more like a self indulgent brat who wants to show how awesome his creations are. Obviously he is following a script and playing a fictionalized version of himself but the writing is awful, spotted with unnecessary jokes when it would have been better played off as a serious documentary. There are plenty of cameos thrown in such as Tony Todd, Kane Hodder, Mick Garris, and a few more that are mostly all there to show just how many friends he has in the horror world. Personally I would’ve like to have seen a whole lot more Ray Wise on screen and a lot less Green.
There are plenty of cool moments and some good genuine scares. The first half of the film actually does a pretty good job at getting us intrigued by establishing a mythology for the Marrow. The second half falls pretty hard at actually delivering on the cool mythology and the disturbing images painted in our mind via Dekker’s stories. The pacing is completely out of whack and makes the whole thing feel much less realistic. On the first night in the woods we get a creature popping up in front of us for a full on jump scare without any gradual build up it comes off as campy.
It’s not an awful film, but it is far from a great one. The premise is so unique I can’t help but feel that Green wasted it on promoting himself rather then delivering a credible horror film. In the hands of a better actor and storyteller Digging Up the Marrow could have been one of the more exciting films to come along in quite some time. It’s worth a watch for the downright awesome monster designs and artwork created by Pardee and the performance by Wise, but beyond that it simply does not deliver or live up to it’s intriguing story outline.