Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #622
Number of Views: One
Release Date: August 23, 2014 (London FrightFest Film Festival)
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 88 minutes
Director: Adam Green
Producer: Cory Neal
Screenplay: Adam Green
Special Effects: Alex Pardee, Caitlyn Brisbin, Nic Henley, Shaun Pendergraft, Roxanne Pike
Cinematography: Will Barratt
Score: Bear McCreary
Editing: Josh Ethier
Studio: Ariescope Pictures
Distributor: Image Entertainment
Stars: Ray Wise, Adam Green, Will Barratt, Josh Ethier, Rileah Vanderbilt, Kane Hodder, Sarah Elbert, Tom Holland, Mick Garris, Alex Pardee, Jimmy McCarthy, Dave Brockie, Nic Henley, Caitlyn Brisbin, Robert Pendergraft, Lloyd Kaufman, Joe Lynch, Tony Todd
Suggested Audio Jukebox:
 True Mathematics After Dark
 Butcher Babies Monster’s Ball
 Hazel O’Connor Monsters In Disguise
Show me a horror fan who doesn’t believe in monsters or at least want to and I’ll question their validity. I’ve been dedicated to this cause for almost forty years now and the whole time has been spent praying for a sign that it’s not just a load of mumbo jumbo. I’d consider myself relatively easily spooked and believe this to be the ideal qualification for the gig I have undertaken as there’s no sense without feeling right? Reality can only take us so far when our imaginations have the ability to deliver us to a place far more intriguing. Mine is constantly ticking away beneath the marrow and it’s one big ghoulish free-for-all every time I screw my eyes shut. How I’d actually react if I was faced with one such anomaly is a whole different kettle of fish but, once the palpitations had subsided and my blood thawed out, I’d imagine it would be time for that happy dance.
That said, I’m also aware that you should be careful what you wish for. It’s all too easy puffing out one’s chest at the vaguest mention of the inexplicable but another when your flashlight falls on a creature you’ve no chance whatsoever of rationalizing and it appears decidedly miffed at the intrusion. Why do you think monsters hang out in ten-year-old’s closets? And I assure you it has nothing to do with them finding your brand of fabric softener aromatic. It’s because they want to do shit on their terms and the first code any aspiring night terror must adhere to is the one that entails upholding anonymity. One dick move and no kid in their right mind will find them spine-chilling. Take a look at zombies and what effect over-saturization has had on their credibility. Monsters can’t be allowed to go out like that, after all, those bed sheets aren’t soiling themselves now are they?
One man who I’m convinced would echo my view is a certain Adam Green. The prolific filmmaker and co-founder of ArieScope Pictures has spent the last decade carving out a niche for himself in horror and his résumé makes for particularly encouraging reading. Aside from birthing the massively popular Hatchet franchise and similarly well-regarded television series Holliston, he has also brought us the likes of Spiral and Frozen, consolidating his position as one of the genre’s true leading lights. Green is my kind of director as his childhood ran concurrent with my own and his love for all things horror stems from the very same origins. He knows precisely what his audience hanker after as he is effectively one of them himself and that fierce passion comes across through every last one of his endeavors.
Green’s pet project Digging Up The Marrow originated back in 2010 after he received fan mail from gifted artist Alex Pardee and spotted the opportunity to create something a little out-of-the-box. The seed gestated for a while until the two met at a convention and decided to pool their ideas and, for the next four years, Green dedicated whatever downtime he could between projects to germinating it. Others around him were less enthused by the concept and there were numerous setbacks along the way which threatened to derail his assignment. The tragic death of his close friend Dave Brockie and his divorce from Rileah Vanderbilt (both of whom appear here) knocked him for six and it appeared that the whole enterprise was doomed to fail. However, he powered on regardless, and this decision was justified when his labor of love finally clambered topside and to a reasonably warm reception.
Straight off the bat, aficionados will be in seventh heaven, as a fair smattering of our personal heroes weigh in on what horror really means to them. We are then cordially invited behind the scenes as Green himself assumes the central role in a mockumentary style number which explores his desire to dig beneath the marrow so to speak. The marrow itself represents the earth and his fascination revolves around what lies beneath the clay. Desperate to obtain bona fide proof that monsters do indeed exist, he sets out to catch them in the act, much to the accelerating bemusement of his nearest and dearest. Of course, this is no one man job, so he drags close friend and cinematographer Will Barrett grudgingly along for the ride.
So where does one possibly start when attempting to disprove the doubters? Well the first thing you require is a kook and über-eccentric retired lawman William Dekker (Ray Wise) fits the bill like a leather mallard muzzle. The general consensus of anyone who comes into contact with Dekker is that the elevator doesn’t travel to the top floor but this doesn’t stop Green from wishing to check out each stop for himself. They say nutjob, he prefers quirky, and he is prepared to cut this apparent goofball an extraordinary amount of slack for that all-important snapshot. His quarrelsome guide knows exactly where the marrow is and boasts first-hand experience of the kind of monstrosities it spits out at the dead of night. It’s easy to empathize with Green’s bloody-mindedness as, with everyone willing him on to snap out of his foolish compulsion, proving them wrong trumps all and he is determined to do just that. You have to actively hunt the deer to stand any chance of scoffing venison right?
Aware that time is not on his side and with his producer beginning to crack the whip over unfulfilled deadlines elsewhere, he heads for the marrow and rigs that shit to the nines, despite Dekker’s embittered objections and Barrett’s steadily raising blood pressure. All the while, his adviser is digging himself deeper into the marrow by continuing to spout his unlikely tales of trepidity, each more cockeyed than the last. Doubts creep in, followed by logic, and still he persists with his stubborn belief and loyalty to a man who is clearly not well in the slightest. The thing is, turn your back on monsters for one second, and who knows what kind of shenanigans they’ll be getting up to? And what the fizzling fuck has happened to Camera-2 anyhoots?
To reveal any more would be disrespectful to the marrow and its indwellers so I shall go back for my misplaced boot another day and let you lot do your own digging from hereon in. However, there are a few little sweeteners I feel obliged to impart, and how does Tom Holland and Mick Garris infused three-way sound for starters? There is a gloriously knowing exchange between the trio and the two elder statesmen crank the whole “you’re not quite there yet sonny” dynamic to the max, while Green stands there sporting a priceless “you got me” look like a teenage tearaway on arrival of that report card. There are multiple in-jokes and affectionate nods packed into this marrow, and that equates to many a pheromone tickle for any self-respecting student of horror.
One thing that Digging Up The Marrow did draw criticism over is the casting of old-handed godhead Wise in the role of Dekker and I’ll admit to my look being no less quizzical on insertion. Surely he’s too recognizable a face to sell the concept. Perhaps that is so and Green deliberated long and hard over whether or not this was a bum move on his part. However, if there is any question of whether this dicey decision was justified, then his gloriously outré performance soon sees that right. Wise is in his element here and historically, when Ray Wise is in his element, we’re right behind him sniffing his insteps. Moreover, his chemistry with boy scout Green is rock-solid and I became rather attached to his smirk over the course of 88 well calculated minutes and all the mild peril they empower.
By the inevitable rug pull, I felt more than justified with my decision to simply hang-out with old friends and some fairly offbeat new ones too. Anyone familiar with Pardee’s work will know that he’s got a far better than average handle on what goes bump in the night and, while I’d have welcomed a few more terrorizing tagalongs, his creations are brought to the screen with the kind of care and attention that a horror harlot like Green can and damn well will bring to the table. Will it live long in the memory afterwards? Perhaps not but I have found myself casting my mind back at every given opportunity since which, I guess, makes me just as culpable as the director. I still want to believe that monsters exist and, thanks to Dekker and Green, have now obtained the coordinates of their hangout. See you in around four years Grueheads and, should things so quiet at any point during the interim, then please send Tom and Mick my regards. Now where’s that other boot dagnabbit?
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Dread Factor: 3/5
For the Dread-Heads: It turns out that Whodini were onto something when informing us of when the freaks come out and there’s plenty of abnormality going down within this marrow. Green wisely chooses not to focus on the hoax angle as that may have been a little too much of a stretch for even my imagination and, instead, just fills his sack with jollies and trusts we’ll be doing likewise. As for the tantalizing culmination of his journey, it still had a chill out of Keeper and that’s credit to a job well done in my book. Granted, I exorcised a knee tremor or two during Joe Dante’s The Hole but I’ll take being a wuss if it means I can just keep believing. Adam Green believes and I do believe he’d make a believer out of the best of us.
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Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
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