4 out of 5
Directed by: Adam Green
Found footage: certainly done to death. Faux horror documentary: still room to explore, but it’s also a known quantity at this point. ‘Digging Up The Marrow’ is somewhere inbetween these two styles – director Adam Green films himself investigating a “fan” letter from a man who claims to have seen real monsters, emerging from their underground ‘Marrow’ – but there are some key things here that navigate the balance of self-awareness and cheeky fun that help to find new life amidst this intermingled genre entry, while also making sure to include the effects and nods that make it a quality horror entry at the same time.
Green is certainly no stranger to juggling comedy and scares and horror fan-service, across his Hatchet franchise or Haddonfield comedy series. However, opinions vary on how successful that act has been, with Hatchet, in particular, offering diminishing returns with subsequent entries after the fresh feel of the original. So instead of making Marrow with a completely straight face, Green signals right up front that there’s no real attempt at faking the fiction of the film: the writer of this fan letter, William Dekker, is played by the 100% recognizable Ray Wise. The counterpoint to that, though, is that Wise plays it straight, and sincerely gives a great performance as a man who’s clearly disturbed, but also grounded enough in his delivery and presentation to be believable. At least, for those who want to believe. Green, in the film, approaches Dekker with bemusement – chortling at drawings of various creatures Dekker claims are real, and has given childish names to – but is also a confessed lifelong fan of the macabre, and not-so-secretly hopes that there’s some truth to what he’s being told. And so he and a cameraman follow Dekker to get some footage… and find some, in the film’s first, of several, well done jump scares and usages of fantastic prosthetics.
The fun back-and-forth then begins: showing the clips and discussing them with luminaries like Kane Hodder and Mick Garris, all are quick to discuss the footage in terms of movies – i.e. how believable the lighting and effects work are. Even Green’s camera operator, who was there, has doubts regarding what they actually “saw,” giving the movie a clever way to both laugh at the silliness and to indulge in it, a balance it’s able to maintain throughout, even whilst twiddling its thumbs a bit to get to a 90 minute mark.
If you go in to Digging Up The Marrow thinking that Green and team are trying to pull one over on you, it’s bound to disappoint. But I don’t see how it can be viewed from that perspective: there’s too much right in your face that acknowledges its own fiction, and as the movie is being helmed by people who love the realm in which they’re working – creature features – that gives them a lot of room to craft a supremely fun, and unique, genre exercise.