While the Hatchet films don’t hold any special place in my heart or on my shelves, their success has given director Adam Green a brand and a following. Genre websites talk about him and his films, he owns a busy production company (arieScope Films), he’s a mainstay at horror conventions, and he hosts a very popular podcast with director Joe Lynch. Digging Up The Marrow is Green’s first dip into found footage or “faux doc” style filmmaking, and stars Green and his real life buddies as themselves. The film revolves around the production of a documentary about kooky old William Dekker (Ray Wise), who claims that monsters are real, and live in a subterranean network of tunnels called “The Marrow”.
The film is inspired by the artwork of Alex Pardee, who just so happens to draw a lot of monsters (see right). You’d think that would make the movie a showcase of Pardee’s designs, but you would be wrong. The movie is mostly scenes of dialogue about how The Marrow is or isn’t real, how Dekker is or isn’t crazy, or how Green is or isn’t wasting his time. On several occasions, they sit around with people like editor/actor Josh Ethier (Almost Human) or Kane Hodder, and watch footage we’ve just seen over and over again. Sometimes there are brief and uneventful detours to Boston or to horror conventions (cameos abound), but the bulk of the film amounts to nothing more than wheel-spinning. In short: it’s boring. It goes for slow burn and saves the horror for short bursts in the middle and end, but at ninety minutes it could’ve used a bit more horror and either more plot (not necessarily a good idea) or more economy (almost always a good idea).
To make things worse, the film is weirdly self congratulatory, making it seem like a vanity project. When our bumbling documentarians have a debate over whether they’ve captured footage of a real monster, they can’t help but remark at how “damn good” the makeup effects look. When Dekker tells Green why he wanted to work with him, he makes sure to mention that Green has a built-in audience. There are montages of Green autographing posters and taking photos with real fans at real conventions. He rubs shoulders with other genre directors like Tom Holland, Mick Garris, and Lloyd Kaufman, as if having them in his movie lent it more validity or cred. Green using footage from his actual life doesn’t make the movie feel more real, it only exaggerates the feeling that there’s not much movie here at all.
There’s little to enjoy in Marrow, but a sliver of fun presents itself in the film’s sense of humor. Green plays up the awkward moments between “himself” and the increasingly odd Dekker, who alternates between major goofball and intimidating old man. Ray Wise can turn up the gravitas or silliness as needed, and his performance is fun. He’s not phoning it in. The character is an indulgence in tropes about obsessives — he’s even got a map on his wall, surrounded by newspaper clippings and accentuated by lines of red yarn. Wise fits the film’s light and goofy tone perfectly.
Adam Green, as talented and experienced as he is, has made a film that perpetuates bad stereotypes of the oft-maligned found footage style. A character questions the presence of the camera, despite the fact that the character knows Green and his pals are making a documentary. Characters re-watch things they (and therefore we) have already seen, preventing the narrative from moving forward. The film is unambitious, slow, and light on scares. But the thing that really drags Marrow down is Green’s desire to keep the fiction to a minimum — to set it in and around his real life. It turns the whole project into a movie about himself and his pals, instead of the cool monster movie it should have been.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars