What I'm Watching: Digging Up the Marrow
Ahh, another found footage movie!
Kinda. But not really. Let me explain...
I've been a mild supporter of Adam Green's movie's, and I say mild because I've not seen them all. But what I have seen, I quite like. And I am still a huge fan of Frozen, when a lot of people scoff at it. So when I saw he was doing a kinda found footage movie, that's a little bit documentary, and blurs the line between movies and reality, my interest was definitely piqued.
Like Adam, I'm a fan of the genre, and monsters, and there's a part of me that would love to find out they're real. We're both the sort that would see something shadowy in the woods and poke it with a stick. And then instantly regret it, but then be all, "THAT WAS SO COOL" the next day.
"Marrow" is a kinda found footage kinda documentary/mockumentary movie, about Adam being contacted by a guy, William Decker, with a bunch of info and art about some real life monsters he claims to have seen. So, Adam and friend go to set up some interviews and lurk in cemeteries to try and discover if the guy is for real, or full of crap. They figure, even if he's full of crap, it'll be entertaining.
Oh, if only he had been full of crap...
Now, I call this 'found footage' even though there is no case of this being people traipsing around, losing their cameras, and the conceit of someone finding and releasing the footage later. At the end of the movie, Adam's still alive and he made the mockumentary. I personally still call it found footage because by saying so, you know the sort of style and movie you're in for. But mockumentary is probably the better word, although it has less humour and satire than that genre has. Even beyond that, the movie is tough to categorise.
Anyways, they meet with Decker, and he introduces them to a concept he calls "The Marrow". All his life, Decker has seen glimpses of inhuman creatures, and gathered exhaustive information on them, following them all around the country, and cobbling together extensive guesswork on their underground society, accessible only through holes in the ground in remote locations...and the occasional IHOP. Eventually they catch something on camera, take it back to their studios, and...no one believes them.
I love that. Absolutely love it. This movie is very much retelling the classic sort of monster story, with all the usual tropes, but through that lens (Ha!) of found footage/documentaries. The scenes of people seeing a monster, then rushing back to town and trying to convince people is a staple of the genre, and its no different here, just told in a unique way, and exactly how it would go down today, with our belief of CGI and effects and makeup. Perfectly handled.
Adam remains determined to prove it, to find solid proof, other than a brief, poorly shot moment, and reveal to everyone the truth of the Marrow.
I love how the story unfolds, with a nice, lengthy setup from Adam and Decker, played amazingly well by genre legend Ray Wise. I expect no less from him. Then there's the second act of Adam trying to convince people, and Decker trying to stop him, then it all culminates in a final act of shit hitting the fan in glorious fashion.
I loved that we actually got to see a LOT of creatures. They're all based on the art of Alex Pardee, who originated the idea of The Marrow, and Decker, and the entire story behind the movie, and then Adam Green took it and ran with it in this mockumentary style. Alex's art is wonderfully whimsical, reminiscent almost of a lot of Guillermo Del Toro's creature designs, but they turn decidedly terrifying at some points. It's a great mixing of cutesy and creepy.
I do kinda wish that Decker was played by a more unknown character, because when you see Ray Wise, it kinda breaks the reality the movie is trying to set up for itself...but at the same time, it's Ray Freakin' Wise doing what he does best, so that's not really a complaint. As much as I'd love to have this movie seem more real by having Decker be played by someone who really COULD be Decker if you didn't know better, I wouldn't trade Wise's performance for anything.
He turns from quiet and nervous to almost joyful at people listening to his story at long last, to heartbreaking at a moments notice. The mystery of just who Decker is and why he's interested in the Marrow unfolds wonderfully, and while you don't get every single answer about his life, you get enough for the main narrative to tell its story and leave enough open for later stories or interpretation.
My other problem is the ending fizzles for me, as is usual. But all it needed, for me, was to change one tiny thing or two, and it would've been okay. Still, it's minor, and the rest of the movie is such a great experience that the movie isn't ruined by five seconds at the very end, like so many others.
This was a great journey to go on, I love that it's played straight, and it really feels like a documentary and just real enough. The performances are great, the creatures are amazing and something you have *never* seen before on camera, in so many ways. From their looks, to just how much you legit get to see in this sort of movie. It was great to spend so much time with them when they attack. The movie has genuine moments of fright and scares, although it has a few jump scares, but they are absolutely well earned ones, and exactly the sort of scares they should be. This movie made my skin crawl more than once, while making you care about Decker and these creatures he's so interested in.
Digging up the Marrow was just such an enjoyable experience, using familiar tropes, presenting them in this not exactly NEW way, but in a different way than usual, taking that familiar 'man discovers monsters' type story and dressing it up as a documentary...and the cameos from horror icons here and there don't detract from the experience at all. It's such a great love letter to the genre and monster movies.
This is an absolute recommendation to horror fans, Ray Wise fans, Adam Green fans, and anyone looking for something that's largely unique in a field of retreads and reboots and adaptations. Okay, technically this IS an adaptation of existing work, but it's done in such a unique way, Digging up the Marrow transcends that and becomes a thing all of its own. Easily one of my favourite horror movies I've seen this year.