Digging Up the Marrow (2014)
★ / ★★★★
William Dekker (Ray Wise), a retired private detective, contacts filmmaker Adam Green (playing himself) and claims he has found something that might be of great interest: an entrance to a world underneath our own where monsters live, a metropolis that mirrors our own in many ways. Green and his camera man, Will Barratt (also playing himself), visit Dekker in his home and conduct an interview because they believe that this man, whether or not he is telling the truth, is likely to be a great subject for their next film.
“Digging Up the Marrow” is the writer-director’s worst film to date. Although the premise has a lot of potential, teeming with colorful and energetic people with whom Green actually works with, the material is a bore to sit through. It consists of a lot of talking rather than a consistent attempt to find what makes this specific story worth telling. With a running time of less than ninety minutes, we get only about five to ten minutes—if that—with actual monsters on screen. Much of the picture is fat that needs to be trimmed.
Green is not a bad actor. He is himself and yet he is playing a version of himself. I enjoyed that the character is an ordinary guy who happens to have a bit of talent behind the camera. When he speaks, we believe that he loves horror movies and everything about it, from behind-the-scenes makeup application, actually shooting a scene, to looking at potential scenes that could make it onto the final cut. For a person who leaves and breathes horror, it is most curious that Green’s film lacks something special.
Part of the reason is its unwillingness to answer the obvious questions or to give the audiences exactly what they want. There is a hole in the ground that serves as an opening to a world of curious-looking monsters. The only time that we get to see inside is during the penultimate scene. Worse, shaky cam is employed to create a semblance of realism. Green writes and directs the film and it is most frustrating that we are not given the chance to see or experience the horrors that hide inside the portal. As time trickles away, so is our hope that the movie is going to get much better.
The material is unable to break out of its faux-documentary conceit. Horror is highly effective when it offers a lot surprises. Here, it appears as though the only neat trick involves Green’s self-awareness. Humor is sprinkled throughout but the freshness wears off quite quickly because there is a lack of balance between comedy and horror. We expect to be scared or be surprised, at least once in a while, but instead we are given dialogue that—though it sounds realistic—doesn’t command intrigue. It feels and sounds flat, far from cinematic, neither visually nor emotionally engaging.
“Digging Up the Marrow” is bottom-of-the-barrel stuff. From someone who wrote and directed “Hatchet” and “Frozen,” we should at least feel a modicum of effort emanating from the screen. Without Green’s name attached to the film, one might have guessed that this effort would have been from a first-time would-be writer-director who doesn’t really have the passion for making horror films but decided to make one anyway because it is cheap to make.