Digging up the Marrow. Director: Adam Green. Writer: Adam Green. Stars: Ray Wise, Adam Green, Will Barratt. ArieScope Pictures
Like his contemporaries, Adam Green is very much a fan of old-school, classic horror. Much of his work tends to reflect this, to the delight of more than a few of his fans. For this reviewer, however, his finished products are erratic in the effort to evoke the same kind of spooky, truly unnerving quality, as some of the iconic touchstones he tends to refer back to. Now, he’s put his hand to the found-footage genre, in an attempt to bring some freshness and maybe some of the same kind of hip irreverence reflected in his HOLLISTON TV series to the mix. With his latest effort, DIGGING UP THE MARROW. the result is a mixed bag, at best. While very entertaining, this film leaves you curiously as unsatisfied as the Big Mac meal you settled for, when what you wanted – and maybe expected – was a New York Strip steak with all the trimmings.
This horror mockumentary features Green, his DP, Will Barratt, genre fave Kane Hodder, and several other associates, friends and colleagues all playing themselves more or less, as he takes on the task of investigating the story of one William Dekker – superbly played by another genre vet and TWIN PEAKS alum, Ray Wise. Dekker claims to have found evidence of an underground city of ‘monsters’, who move between our world and theirs, which he calls “the marrow”, via a series of entrances located in different parts of the country. They are usually found in graveyards and other isolated locations. Dekker wants the world to know his story, but is understandably reluctant to completely trust Green and his friends for his own not-quite-divulged reasons.
Since found-footage has been done to death, back from the days when BLAIR WITCH caused the entire field to ‘blow up’, savvy audiences know how to spot all the tricks and tropes from a mile off. So Green is wise to cannily overstock his film with faces and places familiar to even the more casual fans; bringing in leading lights Mick Garris and Tom Holland to augment Kane’s appearance, and using locales like famous horror mecca Dark Delicacies, and the irreplaceable Porto’s restaurant a block down from it.
The two particular attributes of MARROW that keep the entertainment factor high, are Wise’s beautifully modulated performance as the possibly psychotic Dekker, and some quick glimpses at the effects work, based on the artistic renderings of fan favorite Alex Pardee, who also appears at the film’s beginning.
An imaginative and fascinating scenario, filled with possibilities, the ‘what-if?’ of whether humans can co-exist with creatures inhabiting the darker realms of our world – and psyches – couldn’t have been mined more effectively than was done by Clive Barker in his own peerless ‘monster movie’, NIGHTBREED, and MARROW’S shortcomings reflect this.
Though we see much of Pardee’s/”Dekker’s” artistic renderings of the creatures he claims to have encountered over the years, not enough backstory of his relationship with the “marrow’s” denizens is provided to make the audience even give a damn about what’s going on.
Everything is fuzzily implied for the most part – does his wife live in the “marrow”? Does his son? Are they actually living down there as humans, or are they monsters as well? And how did that come to pass? What WAS it that Dekker was keeping in chains, in the locked room of a house that everyone else in the neighborhood assumed had been unoccupied for over a year?
I get it – not every single detail of a particular story has to be spoon-fed to you while you’re watching, and sometimes a film is all the better for leaving certain details ambiguous. Unfortunately, aside from the marvelous Wise, Green, Barratt and their friends and family are not skilled enough as ‘actors’ to help us suspend our own sense of disbelief, bring us further into the mingling of these two disparate worlds and help drive the story forward, the way that Barker’s wholly fictional construct was able to.
And also, the film’s main asset – Wise’s own presence – manages to take the viewer way out of the ability to suspend disbelief as well. Where BLAIR WITCH’s now-basic found-footage trope of using completely unknown actors added to the jittery ambivalence that first surrounded that movie (“Is this for real or not?”), even the most casual of horror fans would’ve had to have been living in a cave in Afghanistan for a few decades, in order to be unaware of Wise’s stature as a fan favorite – from his role as Leland Palmer in the iconic TWIN PEAKS, if for nothing else.
So my final verdict for DIGGING UP THE MARROW is to hold onto your ‘shovel’, and look for other prime excavation opportunities elsewhere…unless you are a staunch fan of Green’s, who needs to see everything he puts out, regardless, or if you are a Ray Wise fan, for pretty much the same reason.
Check out the trailer for Digging up the Marrow: