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Sunday, 26 July 2015

Monster Movie of The Week: Digging Up The Marrow (2014)


Known for horror movie series like Hatchet and Frozen, director Adam Green (playing himself) receives a wad of information in the mail from a fan who claims to have discovered real monsters.

Green decides this would be a brilliant subject for a documentary and heads out to meet the mysterious William Dekker (Twin Peaks' Ray Wise) and hopefully get a chance to see these so-called monsters.

Dekker spins him yarns about a subterranean world - accessed through holes in the ground usually found near cemeteries - called 'the Marrow', populated by an assemblage of deformed creatures.

Shot in a mock-documentary style (with swatches of 'shaky hand-held camera footage'), the film follows the childishly-excited Green and his skeptical cinematographer, and long-time collaborator, Will Barratt (also playing himself) as they interview Dekker and are then taken on a series of night-time reconnaissance missions, staking out an alleged Marrow entrance.  

Along the way, there are several cameos from known-genre figures (such as Kane Hodder, Mick Garris and Green's ex-wife Rileah Vanderbilt) who don't get what he is trying to achieve with this documentary and generally dismiss Dekker as a potentially-dangerous nutter or a con man.

This is more than a simple "what if monsters really existed?" movie, as a key element in the tale is that that question is being tackled by a horror movie director whose career is based on creating terrifying creatures.

The mockumentary is joyously incomplete, dangling plot threads that are never truly explained (such as the chronology of whatever is in Dekker's locked storeroom), but that's life. And the movie's brilliant ending justifies wholeheartedly why Green left his magnum opus unfinished.

I get why some people don't grok this. They're wrong. But I get it. Digging Up The Marrow is a slow burner, building up to its kick-in-the-teeth third act. Sure, there's a pretty terrifying jump scare about half-an-hour in, but the bulk of the film is about building atmosphere and creating a world.

I can only imagine that a lot of people - coming off the back of the Hatchet franchise - were caught off-guard by how subtle and intelligent Digging Up The Marrow is.

Thematically it owes a lot to the more-grounded tales of HP Lovecraft's oeuvre (particularly his "ghouls") and, of course, Clive Barker's Nightbreed, but the documentary style gives it a verisimilitude that is only undermined by the presence of such a recognisable actor as Ray Wise in a lead role.

Wise is superb, wholly convincing as the shady and driven Dekker, and I understand why Green cast him - to stress that this is 'make-believe' and not an attempt at a Blair Witch-style hoax. Yet I can't help but wonder how the film would have been received if Green had gone down that route with an unknown actor as Dekker.

In reality, Digging Up The Marrow came about because of a fortuitous confluence of events in Green's life. First, he received a highly detailed package of notes from a fan claiming to be the real story of Green's creation, Victor Crowley (from the Hatchet series).

Later the film director met artist Alex Pardee who gave him a booklet of illustrations for his exhibition Digging Up The Marrow that told the story of detective William Dekker commissioning him to draw creatures he'd encountered in his investigations of the Marrow.

2 comments:

  1. Your great review (and "praise") of this film... make me want to see it even more than I already did...
    A great Sunday to yo good Sir....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Paul and I, who both love our horror films, were very impressed by this film.

      Delete

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