Since coming on the scene with Hatchet in 2006, filmmaker Adam Green has developed a devoted following among horror fans. Through his films and the horror sitcom Holliston that he front runs, it’s easy to tell Green is a hardcore horror fan himself, with a deep knowledge and passion for the genre. This clearly shines through in his new film Digging Up the Marrow, his first feature in five years. The premise and set-up for the film are awesome, but amidst all the kick ass monsters and mayhem, what Digging Up the Marrow ultimately boils down to is Adam Green: The Movie.
It’s a painfully indulgent film, with a lot of screen time eaten up by Green mugging for the camera and promoting his work. Although it’s a horror mockumentary, it reminded me of a Morgan Spurlock film, making it more about himself than the subject matter. Here that approach seems criminal, since the apparent inspiration for the film is the artwork of Alex Pardee. If you’re unfamiliar with Pardee’s work, just Google image search his name. His art is pulled straight outta nightmares, mixing familiar images like bunnies and teddy bears with harrowing, dripping creatures. It’s crazy that he’s never been asked to design monsters for a film before (that I know of).
In the film, Green plays himself. He begins by talking about all the crazy fan mail he receives and talks about one package in particular, from retired detective William Dekker (Ray Wise) who claims he has proof that monsters exist. Knowing he’s probably just a crazy old dude, Green sets out to make a documentary about Dekker. Deep down, however, Green can’t shake his curiosity and desperately hopes Dekker has found real monsters – every horror fan’s adolescent wet dream come to life.
Dekker believes the monsters live in an underground metropolis he’s dubbed the “Marrow.” He claims to have found entrances to this world all over the U.S., mainly around cemeteries and another place we all end up at least once in our lives (a punchline I won’t spoil here). He even details run-ins he’s had with a few of them, all of which he’s given names and commissioned portraits of (Pardee’s artwork). As always, Wise is a blast to watch as he balances that fine line between nutty and dramatic. He’s just consistently a joy to watch in everything he’s a part of.
The first half of the film does a good job establishing the mythology of the Marrow. This is essentially done through Dekker’s oral accounts and drawings. By the time Green and Dekker head out into the woods, you’re desperately wanting a glimpse of this mysterious subterranean world and its inhabitants. The big reveals in horror rarely live up to expectations and Digging Up the Marrow is no different, though the glimpses we get of Pardee’s creations are seriously wicked. A couple of them made me grin like an idiot because they were so cool. Sadly, they’re few and far between and once the intrigue is built up, the final 20 minutes devolve into a pretty formulaic found footage romp.
Personally, I would’ve like to have seen Wise and the monsters get more screen time and Green to get a whole lot less. I understand that the film is about our desire for monsters to exist rather than the actual monsters themselves, but after an hour of Green wanking in front of the camera, I needed something more. He’s playing a fictionalized version of himself, I get it. It’s just not a very fun fictionalized version to hang out with. There are some fun cameos peppered throughout (Tony Todd, Kane Hodder, Mick Garris, even Pardee himself), so fans will dig that aspect. I really enjoy Green’s previous work (especially Frozen) and this film can be very fun at times, but overall Digging Up the Marrow is a tiresome and exasperatingly self-aggrandizing trip.
Digging Up the Marrow hits VOD and select cities on Feb. 20.