Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 29 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Directed by: Adam Green
Written by: Adam Green
Starring: Adam Green, Ray Wise, Will Barratt, Rileah Vanderbilt, Josh Ethier, Kane Hodder, Tom Holland & Mick Garris
DIGGING UP THE MARROW sports one of the best horror premises that I’ve heard in a while. Years after the chilling survival flick FROZEN and horror-sitcom HOLLISTON, genre filmmaker Adam Green has returned with an oddball little mockumentary that taps into the fear of monsters. Keeping the whole film under wraps as an Art Documentary, Green managed to quietly premiere this independent project at a couple of genre festivals before scoring a VOD/Limited Theatrical run. As ambitious as its ideas are, MARROW suffers from a misguided focus as well as a disappointing lack of scares (or actual on-screen monsters).
The film plays out in a documentary style following an exaggerated version of Green himself working on a documentary about monsters. An interesting shift occurs when he’s contacted by a crazed fan, named William Dekker, who claims that monsters really do exist and he has proof. Apparently, Dekker has had a connection with otherworldly creatures since he was a child and now wants Adam to document the proceedings. Dekker leads the documentary crew to a spot in the cemetery that he calls the Marrow, supposedly this is the entrance to an underworld metropolis of monsters. As Adam begins to suspect that Dekker is just out of his mind and using him, mysterious things are captured on camera that could put the crew (as well as Dekker) in a monstrous amount of trouble (see what I did there?).
First things first, there are indeed monsters in DIGGING UP THE MARROW. Based on the artwork of Alex Pardee, these creatures are brought to life with pretty awesome practical effects work (with the slight exception of obviously shaky CGI on one particular beast near the end). These monsters look cool and seem like they’d be perfectly at home in Clive Barker’s NIGHTBREED. As neat as these creatures are, there are too few of them glimpsed on camera. You can count the number of beasts that we do get to see on one hand as well as the actual amount of screen time that they’ve been given. The focus seems to be on selling this as a faux documentary instead of a straight-forward found footage horror flick. It seems that Green can’t decide which angle to focus on, so there are a few talking head interviews (that seem genuine) throughout and a wacky soundtrack that seems like it’s from a far more light-hearted movie.
The biggest problem in DIGGING UP THE MARROW (pacing problems set aside) is Adam Green acting as himself. I understand where this idea was coming from and other performers have excelled in poking fun at over-the-top versions of themselves (just look at THIS IS THE END), but Adam Green is way too wink-and-nudge with this material. Set in his offices, there seems to be a little joke aimed at each of his past projects frequently referenced throughout (from comments about the HATCHET series to constant FROZEN posters to a scene about screenwriting HOLLISTON to shirts of CHILLERAMA). I couldn’t help but feel that there was way too much referencing to his past projects for the casual viewer. On the other side of the acting coin, Ray Wise is entertaining as Dekker. In terms of storytelling, the pacing is mostly comprised of build-up with very little pay-off. I’m all for slow-burns, but the wait has to be worth the outcome. That’s certainly not the case here with an anti-climactic final third (aside from one neat idea in the final seconds of the movie).
In spite of an original premise about Lovecraftian horror in the real world, DIGGING THE MARROW is a missed opportunity. I don’t want to say that an overuse of self-indulgence on Green’s part fatally cripples the film, but it definitely didn’t help matters at all. A misplaced goofy soundtrack, pacing that drags way too much, and a predictability of where things are ultimately heading contribute in turning MARROW into a strictly middle-of-the-road experience. For a film with a hugely original idea, there isn’t much creativity on the screen besides the handful of monsters. MARROW is underwhelming. Cool ideas, shaky results.