DreadWorld Review : Digging Up the Marrow (2015)

Writer/Director Adam Green burst on to the horror scene a decade ago with the throwback slasher Hatchet. Since then he's become a sort of horror chameleon. Each subsequent film (excluding his trips back to the Hatchet well) have been unique in both their vision and execution. Whether is the Hitchcock inspired Spiral, his ode to survivalism in Frozen (the one without the songs), or his pitch perfect horror/comedy sitcom 'Holliston', you never quite know what you are going to get when Green steps behind the camera, and that's a good thing. His latest feature, the pseudo-documentary, Digging Up the Marrow, continues in the Green tradition of constantly keeping audiences on their toes. But does different equal good? In Digging Up the Marrows case, the answer isn't as simple as a case of good versus bad.

Adam Green, the writer/director and the character, receives many packages from his fans. One of these packages comes from a man named William Dekker. Dekker claims that the monsters of our nightmares are real. He says that there is a fully functioning monster society that operates just below the earths surface called "the marrow." He sends Adam a large part of his research in hopes on enticing Adam into helping him, helping him what? No one is quite sure...and that's where things get a little muddy and the cracks in Digging Up the Marrow (cracks in the Marrow?) start to rear their ugly heads.

Digging Up The Marrow is presented as a documentary. Green, cinematographer Will Barratt, and many of Greens closest friends and confidants play themselves. Veteran character actor Ray Wise plays William Dekker, the man with the monster obsession - a fictional character. Which may sound weird (and it is) until you realize that Green himself is playing a character, or a characterization of himself. The problem with that is that Green the character, is so damn unlikable early in the film that it's extremely difficult to have any sympathy for him when things, as they are wont to do, fly off the proverbial rails. I don't know if it's Green overcompensating for the fact that in real life, by all accounts, he's one of the nicest guys out there. But watching his first in character interview with Dekker is so off putting it's uncomfortable, and not uncomfortable because of the situation Green finds himself in - face to face with a man who may be crazy. Rather, it's uncomfortable because Green just comes across as a smart ass, snarky, asshole. I get that Green the character is extremely suspicious of Dekkers claims, but there is a way to voice that concern of validity without coming across as some middle school internet message board commenter.

The rest of the narrative follows Green as he gets deeper involved in Dekkers world. He brings Barratt along as the three scope out a hole in the ground Dekker claims is an entrance into the "Marrow." Dekkers story starts to fall apart the more Green starts asking questions. There are seeds planted about Dekkers family and his connections to the "Marrow." Seeds that really go nowhere, and seem like they would have made for a much more interesting film. Instead we are treated to Adams journey rather than Dekkers, despite Dekker being the much more interesting character.

Questionable narrative decisions aside, this film is ultimately about discovering whether monsters exist or do not exist. As you can tell by the trailer above (go watch it...I'll wait) Dekker and Green eventually do find monsters. Some folks may find fault with the fact that the film progresses for a long time before we see anything, and while I can see that being an issue in the big picture scope of things, truthfully the monsters are one of the strengths of the film. Yes, it takes them just about as long to show up as the Nazis in The Sound of Music, but with a strong enough narrative the monsters themselves should be secondary. Its like I preach all the time with these independent zombie films. If your budget can't support hoards of good looking, decaying undead, cut the down to a minimum and concentrate on crafting a killer story. The problem with Digging up the Marrow isn't the late arrival or lack of monsters, it's the lack of any sort of likability for any of the characters and that "killer story."

Green, the character comes across as a spoiled, whiny child. He chastises Will Barratt (again the character) for echoing his wife's opinion on whether to continue the documentary. Again, Green (the character) comes across as just douchey. Dekker is possibly insane, or he's just a father looking for his child (which is eluded to, but not really explored). Either way he's not written to be sympathetic enough for anyone to really care for him when he starts to breakdown. While the last 20 minutes of Digging Up the Marrow may be some of the best work Green has done, it fails to propel the film to the heights of say a Frozen because the proper ground work for the characters wasn't laid before hand.

Digging Up the Marrow is one of the most unique films that I've seen in a long while, but like I said above, unique doesn't always mean good. I applaud Green again for pushing his own boundaries and thinking outside of his comfort zone, and I would be remiss if I didn't point out the fact that Ray Wise, is excellent in the film. It's just a shame that he's not given better material to work with.

** 1/2 stars out of *****

You can check out Digging Up the Marrow on all the various VOD platforms as we speak (or as you read). Check out Ariescope.com for other news on Adam Green and his various projects. That's it for me, as always thanks for reading and "enjoy every sandwich."

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