2015 - 98 minutes
Directed by: Adam Green
Written by: Adam Green
Starring: Adam Green, Ray Wise, Will Barratt
Horror director Adam Green, creator of uneasy chiller Frozen and slasher film Hatchet, tries to get meta in Digging Up the Marrow. Green plays a heightened version of himself in the faux documentary that connects him with a man who claims that real monsters really, really exist. It’s an interesting premise that’s never explored in an interesting way. Mystery and tension don’t build; instead, we get a series of repetitive conversations and trips into the woods at night. Boredom is confused with realism, the 90 minutes trying our patience more than our nerves.
While sorting through fan mail (a cheeky artificial ego stroke – I hope), Green finds intriguing ramblings from William Dekker (Ray Wise). The retired police detective is adamant he knows of a secret underground world, which he calls “the Marrow,” where monsters dwell. With cinematographer Will Barratt, also playing himself, in tow, Green interviews Dekker. The trio eventually heads into a wooded state park where there’s a hole in the ground Dekker claims is a gateway to the Marrow. Getting a quick glimpse of a creature of the night via typical found footage jump scare, Green ratchets up efforts to capture more evidence and explore the mind of the man who may have introduced him to real-life beasts.
The film hard sells the documentary aesthetic in the opening, where horror convention attendees and principles – including Lloyd Kaufman and Tony Todd – espouse their love for the genre and what draws them to the idea of monsters. Marrow also really sells Green’s production company ArieScope. We get a look at the hip working environment and a rundown of the director’s credits. It’s a little too bland to be a wink.
Regardless of the measured approach setting up Green as a horror geek titillated by the prospect of tracking down tangible creatures, the illusion of reality is shattered with the casting of Wise as Dekker. Though a phenomenal actor who’s effective at selling sincerity, he’s just too recognizable for the ruse to have any effect. No amount of time in the editing bay with Green and his ArieScope colleagues or appearances from notable horror actor Kane Hodder can convince us that any of this extemporaneous.
The calculations are off throughout. Green doesn’t seem to change as the mysteries of the Marrow unfold, always appearing as an imprecise mixture of wonderment and skepticism. Story elements don’t congeal and just kind of lay still in the dirt. What does it matter if Dekker lied about his past? What’s behind that chained door in his house? What about the theory that the Marrow’s denizens are deformed humans who escaped an unaccepting “normal” society? This is all just filler that never congeals.
Because we’re always hyperaware that this is a belabored put-on, final act chills aren’t chilling and are devoid of any real meaning, wasting some really strong creature effects. Digging Up the Marrow never settles into a groove, failing to develop its most promising themes and winding up a disorganized jumble of ethos.