A semi-famous horror director plays himself making a documentary about monsters in film. He is contacted by a mysterious figure who claims to have evidence that proves the existence of monsters. Great premise, yeah? Unfortunately, Adam Green’s Digging Up the Marrow barely even comes close to meeting the mysterious potential of the plot, and fails pretty spectacularly.
Green and his crew venture to the house of William Dekker (Ray Wise; Twin Peaks, RoboCop) who whets their monster appetite with tales of what he calls The Marrow, a vast underground metropolis inhabited by monsters. Everybody is sceptical, because Dekker is a crazy, lonely old bloke, but the monster champion Green is optimistic. Things continue in much of the same vein from here. There are plenty of half-plots in Digging Up the Marrow that would have been much better choices than the end result – Dekker’s barely realised yet intriguing backstory or Green’s relationship with Dekker would have lent a greater sense of drama and climax to an otherwise forgettable storyline. The only real saving grace is a great performance from Wise, whose Dekker is sinister and dramatic, blowing up at just the right times and leaving you wanting more. Unfortunately, the film focuses on Dekker way too late, leaving us with an hour of uneventful lead up footage that feels self-indulgent and repetitive before he is properly utilized. The final act runs predictably and even though it had opportunities to do something different, and actually become the intelligent spoof of found-footage films that it wanted so badly to be, Digging Up the Marrow never takes them. Almost two-thirds of the film is some variation of canned drama: ‘did we just see something in the bushes’/‘is this guy screwing with us’.
Green is ungainly, and most of his dialogue feels so forced that you almost want there to be some kind of horror-tradition-higher-purpose that you’ve missed. His annoying, stubborn persona makes him an extremely unsympathetic central character, and his constant presence renders most of the dialogue heavy film cringe-worthy and unpalatable. The interactions between Green and his crew are painfully forced and the drama is awkward; it’s just too obvious a satire. Yes, Digging Up the Marrow is ham, but not ham-fisted enough – it just feels like a poorly executed horror film. Obviously the objective was to take the piss out of the found-footage genre, but the film ends up embodying some of its lamest tropes instead. Meta-footage of Green and his crew discussing found-footage films is so purposeful that your sides ache from all the nudging. When applied well, the purposeful or obvious can be an asset to a film, but the audience-winking nature of Digging Up the Marrow just feels self-indulgent and poorly realised. In trying to make light of both found-footage films and mockumentaries, the film has set itself up for failure by being entirely too ambitious. Things intensify in the third act, but it’s way too late by then; the few mercifully provided jump scares are simply not enough to sustain a bored audience. Perhaps ardent Adam Green fans will salivate over it, but Digging Up the Marrow just doesn’t have enough substance to capture a wider audience.
Around the Staff: