To start this off, I initially went into Digging Up The Marrow with very little knowledge about its concept other than that it was a documentary made by Adam Green, the awesome filmmaker who gifted us with Hatchet, Holliston, and Frozen. I had no idea about the premise other than its found-footage basis and that it was about monsters. This was one I took a shot at alone with zero expectations that wound up being one of the most enjoyable film experiences I’ve had in a while. By the time the first true scare hit me I was so invested in the commentary and story unfolding that my horror movie guard was down and I nearly sprung out of my bed… to be honest, there was an impressive level of separation between my body and the mattress.
Digging Up The Marrow combines some of my absolute favorite film elements: one being found-footage, two being horror commentary, and three being a mockumentary-style narrative.
Green’s love letter to monsters and monster lovers, respectively, is so unique, fresh and original that I consider it one of the best in the genre for so many reasons. This independently made fan-service film remains grounded in committed appreciation and simplicity as Green, his cameraman Will Barratt, and a strange man claiming to have found a portal to a world of monsters, Dekker, played by Ray Wise (Twin Peaks), record their potential findings of monster life among us. I dug up as many of the big factors that give Digging Up The Marrow that certain appeal I love being surprised with when it comes to any type of film. If you’ve gone searching for a smart, scary, and authentic documentary-style experience, Digging Up The Marrow is a truly rare encounter.
Adam Green As Adam Green
What you should know about Digging Up The Marrow, first and foremost, is that it is an Adam Green project. It’s made for Adam Green fans, which was enough of a personal hook without all of the incredible cinematic factors to begin with. The borderline meta-horror footage is fun, tense, and creepy as Green delves into the world he lives in with the people he loves. Unlike his mysterious and frightening monsters, Adam Green is a genuine delight who invites the audience into his production company, Ariescope Pictures’, environment and his personal home.
By casting himself as himself, Green adds a layer of authenticity to the found-footage throughout Digging Up The Marrow. He’s really relatable, funny, and subtly guides the audience through reacting to the events unfolding on their adventure with Dekker. Green brings us into his exclusive world of horror filmmaking, showing off a fantastic collection of horror memorabilia and acquaintances alike (like THE Kane Hodder).
Digging Up The Marrow is a heartfelt service to fandom built around the movies that Green creates, but also the one that he himself is a part of. Like us, Green is a true horror fan and brings that passion to the lens expertly, whether he’s behind or in front of it.
We’re currently living in a horror climate where monsters and creatures are untouched and ignored. Within the last decade, we’ve seen the renaissance of the supernatural, a plethora of remakes and reboots, a hyper-focus on cult activity, and even the resurgence of the slasher. I think what makes Digging Up The Marrow so much fun is the concept’s originality – inviting monsters into the real world. We experience so many films grounded in reality, with themes, elements, and villains that actually exist, that the beings we think of as “monsters” are kind of dead.
With his individual underground monsters, Green takes us back to a more pure state of horror. It’s the unknown creatures that go bump in the night that really got us into horror to begin with, right? Digging Up The Marrow places them in our backyard, with close-to-genuine footage of what it would be like to witness the unexplainable. Professional and fan commentary on why we are obsessed with monsters as horror fans adds a great sense of inclusion and community to this strange world of the unknown we’ve been pulled into. Granted, there have been so many fake and cheesy portrayals of the things that spark our nightmare fuel, but Green manages to put us back at square one with his unique monsters creating a perfect balance of fear, empathy, and nostalgia.
Real Special Effects
When it comes to found-footage type of films, originality is absolutely key to winning over the audience. The experience is meant to mirror reality, so the details from actor performances to set pieces are important contributors to a found-footage film’s authenticity. Adam Green’s genuine love of monsters goes hand-in-hand with his appreciation for fantastic special effects, especially when it comes to Digging Up The Marrow.
The concept for the mockumentary was born from a real experience Green had with a fan, Alex Pardee, who had really sent the filmmaker handwritten mail about Hatchet’s Victor Crowley’s history. As an artist, Pardee was commissioned to paint real monsters that people had supposedly seen. Impressed with his writing and ideas, Green and Pardee collaborated on Digging Up The Marrow as a film project. Green was very much aware that his film’s monsters were going to be the product of Pardee’s mind and when he was going to allow viewers a peek at them they would have to look as real as possible… and they do.
Pardee designed all of the unique monsters we see in Digging Up The Marrow and they are fantastically brought to life by sculptor Greg Aronowitz. The monsters are operated, put together, and made up by artist Robert Pendergraft. Using almost all practical effects based on Pardee’s extremely surreal illustrations, the monsters that Green seeks are so elaborate and realistic it’s almost impossible to tell whether the mockumentary is real or not, that is until Ray Wise enters the frame. He shows us just enough to pull us in and shock our sight, but keeps the viewers guessing when the next one will creep up. These monsters are not ones we’ve seen before, but they are creatures we are dying to see more of thanks to some brilliant practical effects work. You can even leave the humor up to Green when it comes to poking fun at just how good the effects are in the film itself. If it is authenticity they were aiming for, the team behind these movie monsters created something really special from the ground up.
You can only hope that all love letters are with sincerity, so if I’ve tried to prove anything it’s that Green’s work in Digging Up The Marrow is a heavy distribution of heart and a passion. It’s a piece that pokes fun at itself in good humor, but also proudly holds the genre and community in the highest regard. If you’re into found-footage, meta-horror, monsters, and especially Adam Green, Digging Up The Marrow is definitely worth a stream. You can find it on Shudder and Amazon Prime, but you won’t find it lurking in your backyard.
Have you streamed Adam Green’s Digging Up The Marrow? What do you think of the found-footage monster mockumentary? Let us know your thoughts over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Fiends of Nightmare on Film Street Facebook group!