I’ve said before that (unlike some folks around here) I don’t hate the “found-footage” subgenre. Admittedly, a lot of it is pure dreck; amateur (or amateur-ish; there is often a difference) filmmakers seeking the cheap way out on what they see as a ticket to stardom, using inexpensive equipment and slipshod technique, calling the cheap look of the film “ambiance”. Unfortunately, there’s often as much a lack of talent as there is budget, and the end result is we get the glut of POV flicks that a lot of people just can’t stand all but obscuring the precious few that are worth a damn. Those rare gems stand out to the dedicated trash-sifter, proving some merit in the method; when done well, it’s hard to beat the front-row seat found-footage provides for pure pucker-factor. If the filmmaker can really make you believe in the story (and that’s often a burden they themselves sabotage with too much exposition or too complex a tale), few things can generate more nerve-wracking tension.
Adam Green, as most of you Fellow Fans know, is a filmmaker that’s shown his chops in the field of horror, with such contributions as bringing back the glory of the blood ‘n’ guts slasher flick with the Hatchet franchise, exploring tense, intimate terror with Frozen, and even showing the lighter side of the horror industry (and a plethora of it’s biggest names) with his television show, Holliston. The list goes on, and most recently, he imbues Digging Up The Marrow, his take on the “found-footage” film, with the same passion, skill, and wittiness that has become his trademark.
Between regular productions at ArieScope Pictures (and between seasons of Holliston), Adam Green still pursues the lore and minutiae of his obsession; horror, and the things that make it. When an individual sends him a letter about evidence of actual, honest-to-God monsters, Green is intrigued.
Seizing an opportunity for at best a remarkable documentary and at worst a humorous diversion, he takes his friend and regular cinematographer Will Barratt with him to meet the mysterious letter-writer, the self-professed former Boston detective turned “monster hunter”, William Dekker. In his home (that’s really more of a hovel), Dekker spins quite the story for the camera, surrounded by artistic depictions of the different “species” of monsters he’s studied. His theory is that deformed children that are born around the world, year after year, have actually founded an entire, underground society beneath the earth; something he calls the Marrow. From time to time, these creatures venture forth to the surface from secluded holes in the ground that, once discovered, are often filled in without leaving a trace. Clearly wary of Dekker’s somewhat manic behavior but intrigued by the prospect, Green and Barratt travel with the man to one such “entrance”, hidden away in the back end of a national forest. Although they sit through many evenings and little is seen (except, of course, by Dekker, pointing things out that the camera never picks up), Green persists in going along with the more and more suspicious old man…and to his horror comes to find that although Dekker might not be completely honest, it doesn’t mean he’s not telling the truth…
The film is a nice change of pace from the typical POV flick; for starters, the number one pitfall (why is there always a camera running?) is neatly taken care of by our knowledge of Adam Green and what he does for a living. Additionally, Green skillfully maneuvers the film to appear exactly what he intends; it’s edited together in the sense a rough cut would be done rather than cameras rolling every second of every day. The script is well-done, with the behaviors of the characters done in such a way as to seem natural and convincing, without the usual deluge of blind stupidity that often seems to befall people in such films. For example, the film crew obviously thinks Dekker is a crackpot in the beginning; also, they themselves question very heavily everything they see, carefully scrutinizing their footage, finding the faults and the discrepancies. This self-awareness isn’t done satirically or tongue-in-cheek; instead, it lends a credibility to the narrative flow, adding verisimilitude of the flick. There’s even a comical moment when the guys ask Kane Hodder to come in to take a look at their “footage”, which he quickly and unequivocally dismisses as fake (and even makes a nice crack about how much “found footage” sucks 🙂 ). Speaking of special guests, Hodder isn’t the only treat for us horror fans; at a convention (that Adam is attending), Tom Holland and Mick Garris tell Green of their own experiences with the fanatical Dekker, and even this is only a small portion of the genre celebrities you’ll find…watch closely; you Fellow Fans will see a lot of folks you’ll recognize.
Unfortunately, it’s this pedigree of familiar faces that is also a weakness of the film; although Ray Wise is wonderful in the role of Dekker, his recognizability shatters the otherwise carefully-preserved illusion of “reality” in the film. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Mr. Wise, and as I said, he was brilliant in the role…but c’mon, it’s Ray Wise.
Regardless of the loss of “reality” traction, I honestly had fun with the flick. It was entertaining and never boring; it was mysterious, off-kilter, and even comical at times, serving itself up as one of the more believable found-footage/mockumentary films out there, despite the presence of “monsters”. That said, let me just say that while some of the effects look like effects, this is addressed and deflected well (Green and company point this out themselves!)…
…but the real question I’ll leave you with, Fellow Fans, is this: think about it…you spend your whole adult life believing monsters aren’t real..
…so will one look real when you see it?
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