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Digging Up The Marrow
What if the ghastly images and abominations haunting our collective nightmares actually exist? Writer/director Adam Green (Hatchet) sets out to make a documentary exploring this tantalizing premise after being contacted by a mysterious man named William Dekker (Ray Wise). Dekker claims he can prove that “monsters are real” and insists these grotesque creatures are forgotten, hideously deformed humanoids inhabiting a vast, underground metropolis of the damned. Determined to expose the truth, Green embarks on a bone-chilling odyssey and gets more than he bargains for when he dares to go Digging Up The Marrow.

Review: Digging Up The Marrow
Who doesn’t love monsters?  I certainly do.  I always have and I always will.  Dishing out some solid monster action in your film will admittedly earn a lot of goodwill from me.  On the flipside, dishing out crummy and/or half-assed monster FX will make me turn on you quicker than ever.  So how does Adam Green’s Digging Up the Marrow stack up?

Very well, thankfully.  

While I’m not the biggest fan of Green’s Hatchet series, I have enjoyed most of his other work.   Spiral (2007) is a solid psychological thriller with a great central performance by actor/co-writer Joel David Moore.   Frozen (2010) was a good little minimalist survival thriller and “The Diary of Anne Frankenstein”, Green’s comedic segment in Chillerama (2011), was the best of the bunch.   Digging Up the Marrow falls in nicely in line, melding Green’s sense of humor, his love of practical FX, and the mockumentary approach of his TV series, Holliston, into a low budget indie stew of a monster movie.

The film doesn’t have a lot of characters to juggle, which is generally a plus on smaller films.  It helps that our lead…Adam Green himself…has already had a lot of on-camera experience, along with pals Will Barratt and Josh Ethier, also playing themselves.  We are further treated to quite a few horror icon cameos, from Lloyd Kaufman to Don Coscarelli to Green regular Kane Hodder; all interacting with Adam and Will as the go on their journey with conspiracy theorist and all-around weirdo William Dekker (Ray Wise).  

Casting Ray as one of the few fictional characters in the film was, pardon the pun, a wise decision, as he brings with him the same level of gravitas that he does in most roles.  Too often these days I see younger (and occasionally older) horror directors tossing their favorite veteran character actors into important parts, only for them to sleepwalk through their role.  Wise rarely does that, thankfully, and he chews the hell out of every bit of exposition and dialogue tossed his way here.

Review: Digging Up The Marrow
Dekker, allegedly a retired Boston detective, has been scouring the country searching for and investigating what he believes to be a secret underground society of “monsters”.  Dekker believes that this secret society of deformed human (and subhuman) beings literally reside about 100 yards beneath us within a hidden network of tunnels and cities unknown to man.  They tend to have at least one (but likely multiple) surface access points that they close up and move on from when they fear their presence has been discovered.  

Adam and Will enter the picture when Dekker convinces them of his theories about The Marrow (what he calls the monsters and their society) just enough to get them to do a series of on-camera interviews with him.  He also gets them to accompany him to what he believes to be the latest entrance to this hidden domain, this time located beside an old cemetery within a public park in the woods of southern California.

Shot documentary-style, there is a found footage aspect to the film, but it isn’t nearly as intrusive as it is on other projects and rarely irritated me when I was watching the film.  The few times it did generally had more to do with my inherent desire to see more of the titular “Marrow” when Green & Co. opt instead for a “less is more approach”.  It works, because at the end of the tale I was definitely left interested in seeing a follow-up if we are ever lucky enough to get one.

The creature FX are really good, even though they are sparsely used, and thankfully eschew a lot of the more generic designs we see in films of this type these days.  Bringing in an actual artist with his own strange style for crafting monsters was the best thing that could have happened to this and absolutely helps set it apart from many other indie monster flicks.  Going practical with the creatures was also a massive plus, again setting it further apart from every other run-of-the-mill cheap CGI-filled monster flick.

Review: Digging Up The Marrow
Video
The look of the film, as with the "footage" that we are viewing, changes throughout depending on the location of any given sequence and the type of camera it is being shot on.  The sequences involving Adam, Will, and their work associates are all vibrant and enthusiastic.  The interviews with Dekker and others are generally more muted and static.  And, naturally, the night sequences around (and eventually in) the entrance to "the Marrow" are darker, harsher, and more muted.  All are well-blended in the edit and the film was never jarring when switching between these three core looks.  All-in-all, it's a pretty good looking film.

Review: Digging Up The Marrow
Audio
Digging Up the Marrow is fairly low key in terms of sound, with the majority of it coming from dialogue or environmental sounds (be it cars, cameras, nature, etc.).  The track is nonetheless very dynamic, utilizing all channels, especially during the more suspenseful sequences.  Bear McCreary's (also low key) score underlines everything quite nicely and is never over-bearing.

Extras
  • Commentary with Adam Green, artist Alex Pardee, Will Barratt, and Ray Wise - An extremely informative track that covers all facets of production from inception to completion.  Green is the primary voice throughout, though Pardee and Barratt pitch in often as well.  Wise less so.  Some aspects of Green's career outside of the film are also touched on at times.
  • Monsters of the Marrow - Green, Pardee, FX head Robert Pendergraft, and sculptor Greg Aronowitz go into detail on the conception, physical design, and execution of each creature they put to film.
  • Deleted/Extended Scenes - There are five scenes, all with intros from Green detailing why they were ultimately removed or altered.
  • Trailer
  • Additional Trailers - Odd Thomas, WolfCop, and The Houses October Built.


Review: Digging Up The Marrow
Overall
Digging Up the Marrow won't roll any heads or be declared a new classic, but it's a good little monster movie and worth your time.  It has an intriguing story, a good cast, and some cool, tastefully glimpsed beasties throughout.  It's also probably Green's best film to date, at least in terms of straight horror, and gets a thumbs up from me.  The disc itself is also rather packed, making it a worthwhile addition to any Green or monster fan's shelf.

Review: Digging Up The Marrow
Review: Digging Up The Marrow

* Note: The above images are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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