Movie Review: Adam Green’s ‘Digging Up the Marrow’

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Above all else, Adam Green’s Digging Up the Marrow (based on art by Alex Pardee) is fun. It’s bound to appeal much more to genre fans than to the general public, and this is evident right from the beginning as we see appearances from a variety of familiar faces (all playing themselves). These include the late Oderus Urungus (Dave Brockie) from Gwar, Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman and Toxie, Tony Todd, Don Coscarelli, and Dread Central’s Steve Barton. Some other fun cameos appear later.

The film is presented in mockumentary style, and features Green (known for films like Hatchet, its sequels and Frozen as well as the Fearnet series Holliston) and cinematographer Will Barratt as themselves as they set out to make a doc about a man named William Dekker, who claims he has found monsters who live underground. Is he for real, is he full of shit, or is he just crazy? These are the questions the filmmakers are seeking the answers to throughout the movie.

Much of the film plays like we’re just watching a documentary about Green himself. We spend time at his house and at his place of work, and we even follow him to a horror convention. We see a lot of imagery related to his past work ( a Victor Crowley doll, Frozen shirts, Kane Hodder). We’re getting to know Adam as much as we are learning about the monsters and the Marrow.

Ah yes, the Marrow. That’s the name Dekker (played brilliantly by Ray Wise) has given to a hole in the ground at the edge of a cemetery, which serves as the gateway to an underground metropolis (or perhaps metropolises) where the “monsters” live. If the word “Midian” crosses your mind, you’re not alone.

Dekker (hmm, that name sounds really familiar) has become an expert on these monsters over the years, and has plenty of art to show Green, but little in the way of evidence of their existence, so everyone is forced to wonder how true it all is throughout much of the film. While most of the film’s characters are skeptical at best, Green plays the Mulder role with the “I want to believe” approach. As a lifelong monster movie fan, he’s always wanted there to be real-life monsters, and he’s mostly buying into what Dekker is selling. Even when we start to see what Dekker claims are these monsters, the truth remains up in the air.

It’s Wise as Dekker that really sells this movie. His monster stories and descriptions are nearly as creepy as anything we actually see. As a huge Robocop fan, I’ve always liked him, but here he shines as brightly as in any other film I’ve seen him in. He was perfect for this role, and was a great complement to the likable Green who’s on screen for the majority of the time.

If you’re going in expecting a ton of monster screen time, you may be disappointed, but in my opinion, it’s handled just right. Also, if you’re expecting a gorefest, you may want to look elsewhere. That’s not what this is about. If you’re happy to put a bit of your logic on hold and just have some fun looking for monsters with Green and co., I think you’ll enjoy the ride.

Digging Up the Marrow feels closer in tone to a film like Fantasm than to Hatchet or Frozen. It is, after all, a pseudo-documentary. While part of my brain keeps telling me that I’m getting tired of so many genre films using the mockumentary or found footage styles, the more sensible part of my brain reminds me that there are plenty of good films that take these approaches, and tells that other part of my brain to just shut up. I don’t think the former part is going to completely abide, but as long as movies like Digging Up the Marrow, and last year’s The Sacrament and Afflicted continue to entertain and/or disturb, I’m happy to keep patronizing the sub-genre.

I can’t say I found the movie to be the scariest in two decades as the quote in the trailer says (especially since I watched The Canal earlier this week), but as I said at the beginning, it’s just fun. Watch it when you get a chance.

Digging Up the Marrow on Blu-ray is available for pre-order from Amazon.

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