Digging Up The Marrow


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Digging Up The Marrow
"Smart, witty and genuinely scary in places, Digging Up The Marrow delivers much more than you'd expect."

In the wake of films like Rewind this, Best Worst Movie and Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope, we all love a good genre documentary, so it's easy to slip unguarded into this elegant spoof by Hatchet 2 director Adam Green. Playing himself alongside colleagues and family members who do the same, he cheerfully parodies the fan-focused subgenre, starting out at a convention, giving us snippets of interviews with famous faces and talking about his career. It's charming, endearing, and it puts viewers off their guard. Adam chats about his fan mail, tells us he's going to go and interview a man who insists he's seen real monsters. A van pulls up outside a suburban house; gear is unloaded; and then suddenly we're staring into the pale blue eyes of Ray Wise, and we know this is going to be an entirely different kind of film.

Ray plays William Dekker (a name replete with genre references), but that may be a pseudonym; he says he used to work as a detective in Boston, but perhaps that's not true either. It's no secret that horror, science fiction and fantasy conventions can attract people possessed of, shall we say, unusual beliefs, people who like to corner others and produce sheafs of newspaper clippings and crude drawings as proof of the conspiracies they say are keeping wild secrets buried. Adam assumes Dekker is just another one of those. Until he takes him out into the woods at night and strange things start to happen. Then there are questions. Could the things that Dekker claims be true? Could Adam be the subject of an elaborate hoax? Could Dekker be dangerous?

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It's difficult to imagine any other actor pulling off the role of Dekker the way Wise does, and ultimately the whole film hinges on his performance. Sure, anyone familiar with his previous roles would shrink at the thought of a late night walk in the woods with him, but what's impressive here is the degree to which he wins audience sympathy and skillfully places Adam in the position of the bad guy, a filmmaker with dubious ethics who might be exploiting a vulnerable subject and who is certainly disrespectful toward the things this man values. The most that can be said in Adam's favour is that he is naive, yet here, too, a well judged performance means that we're still afraid for him when he (figuratively and literally) puts his foot in it.

The humour that keeps us engaged throughout varies from the lighthearted and playful to something very dark indeed, and shifts in tone are, for the most part, elegantly handled. Early comments about the importance of pathos in the traditional monster movie lead to fascinating speculation later on and make Adam, despite the presence of filmed material ("not found footage, footage footage!") into another unreliable narrator, as his ideas are clearly heavily influenced by the B-movie narratives he's bought into. There are also hints of the classic HP Lovecraft tale Pickman's Model, with layers of extra meaning added as Adam's friends in the editing suite discuss what they assume is costume. Through t all, the affection for genre found in those popular documentaries remains present, adding to the film's charm.

Smart, witty and genuinely scary in places, Digging Up The Marrow delivers much more than you'd expect based on its knowingly cheesy premise. It's an intriguing curiosity for any viewer, and genre fans will find it a delight.

Reviewed on: 07 Feb 2015
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Documentarians exploring monster art meet a man who claims the monsters are real - and that he knows where to find them.

Director: Adam Green

Starring: Ray Wise, Adam Green, Tom Holland, Kane Hodder, Mick Garris

Year: 2014

Runtime: 88 minutes

Country: US


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