First, a scene setter with documentary footage of a horror fans’ convention, and vox pops with various people attending including those who make the movies, with their views on monsters and whether they think they are genuine. They have differing opinions, but there’s a consensus that they sympathise with the creatures, whether they be real or not, and the horror genre has been a great source of comfort as well as entertainment for them down the years. And the man capturing this footage? Director Adam Green, who is making a movie on the interesting folks chillers attract, and that gives him the excuse to bring in some intriguing messages he has received from a man who claims to be in contact with the real thing…
Now, when you see this “Decker” on camera, many will recognise him not to be a random crazy person who has latched onto a low budget auteur of scary movies, but as very familiar character actor Ray Wise, and for some the spell will be broken almost as quickly as it was cast. But what did they expect? That Green had genuinely uncovered evidence of monsters hiding in plain sight in society? It wouldn’t have been likely, and besides he didn’t wish to get into the whole hoax business that the obvious antecedent to Digging Up the Marrow owed so much to stylistically, The Blair Witch Project, a work that could credit its huge success to the fact that so many audiences were gullible enough to fall for their subterfuge and believe the people depicted really had disappeared.
So once we were aware this was a fairly well known Hollywood actor we were watching, we could sit back and appreciate what proved to be an amusing enough trifle riffing on Clive Barker’s cult shocker Nightbreed, which had at the point this was released been given the full restoration treatment into a director’s cut. Whether Green thought this was stealing his five years in the making movie’s thunder was a moot point, and this was different enough thanks to the mockumentary technique that it didn’t matter so much. What it was designed to do was showcase the artwork of artist Alex Pardee who crafted the story’s creatures, which was an odd state of affairs when Green was so reluctant to show them in all their rubbery glory.
Be prepared for disappointment if you were looking forward to Barker-esque displays of everything the makeup effects department had to show off, for this was endeavouring to go against that grain and contribute an air of mystery to the narrative. This contrasted Green’s uncomplicated screen presence with Decker’s more difficult to pin down personality as we don’t know how much he is on the level and how much he is making up his wild claims that in the forest near to where he lives there is a community of monsters. To back up the possibility that such entities exist, Green made the misstep of showing medical photographs of real deformed infants who presumably didn’t live very long; stuff like that was too authentic and brought you out of the movie which should have stuck with the fantasy.
Green roped in a bunch of horror personalities and cohorts to play themselves, which left this looking like a home movie project that somehow got out of hand, it might have been just that for all we know, but for a director who put so much of himself out there on the publicity trail, a comparison to Kevin Smith may have been valid, especially as Smith had made the not dissimilar in plot and theme Tusk around the same time (although far quicker). What it did have was a musing over how true stories can grow in the telling, then when the facts are pinned down they prove so slippery that you end up not being entirely sure what you were investigating, and whether there was any way of working out the nebulous truth of the matter in the end anyway. This was plainly not a true story, Green was happy to admit, but as a comment on the raft of documentaries that presented twisting accounts of crimes and tragedies, it had some worth. That said, in the end it was just a little silly, and that was fine as far as that went for the indulgent. Music by Bear McCreary.