Digging Up the Marrow opens with a selection of inteviews with icons like Lloyd Kaufman, Tony Todd and Don Coscarelli talking about monsters. Where do monsters come from? Are they real? Do we with they were real? Maybe monsters aren’t just in the fictional Tromaville, but are lurking somewhere in our own world – somewhere hidden.
Director/writer Adam Green is also a man obsessed with monsters, so he’s filled with glee when he shares the notebook he was sent to his camera crew. The notebook, sent from a man named William Dekker, contains notes and illustrations about a world where monsters really exist.
The former police detective allows Adam and his crew to go to his house and make a documentary about him. In the first interview, he explains that there is a world beneath ours containing monsters. The world, which Dekker calls the Marrow, is filled with the “reject” children that had disappeared.
Dekker explains that when he was a child, he saw a man with a forked tongue and other reptilian features. And since then, he has kept an eye out for other monsters in various entrances to the Marrow.
After the interview, Adam sees a door with a large lock attached. Dekker explains that it’s his storage room, and that no one can enter. Which is entirely not shady OR creepy!
Dekker allows Adam and his cameraman to join him in a wooded cemetery where one of the gates to the Marrow exists. They’re told to leave before sunset, but the men ignore the policeman and set up camp for the night. While waiting, they shoot the shit about their married lives and children. Dekker seems particularly interested in the stories about the cameraman’s sons.
But before they can get really cozy, William says he sees something. But without night vision or a camera light, the camera doesn’t pick up on anything.
In the following interview, Dekker tells Adam about some of the monsters. He explains that there are different species of monster, and he has named them. He has many illustrations of the monster, saying that an illustrator did them for him. But when he pulls out one of a different style, he briefly mentions that his son drew it. But when Adam presses for more details, Dekker avoids answering them.
Their next excursion into the woods is significantly more successful. William tells Adam and the cameraman that the monster is right in front of them, and becomes incredibly angry when the camera light is turned on to get a good glimpse of it.
Adam and his team finally have the footage that they want. The monster defies all creature make-up effects. But when Adam shows it around, no one seems as convinced as he is.
After angering Dekker with the camera light incident, they tell him that they plan to set up cameras around the woods with a fake street light. The camera will be unobtrusive, so not to disturb the monsters (Dekker’s greatest fear). The new rigs allow them to get more footage of the monsters.
But it’s still not enough to convince anyone else, especially Adam’s own production team. He eventually has to leave for a month to go on a convention tour where he learns that he’s the absolute last director that Dekker has attempted to work with. The man had apparently gone to everyone with his story about the Marrow, and was turned down by every single one of them.
Angered that he had been lied to, Adam tests Dekker’s honesty by asking him why Dekker chose to work with him. The answers are both evasive and in conflict with what other directors and writers told Adam at the cons.
Even more, Dekker’s answers and stories begin to become more unbelievable. He tells Adam that monsters love pancakes (because everyone loves pancakes), that he’d seen a monster “pick up” a college boy who was later found mutilated beyond recognition. Adam even flies to Boston to check up on Dekker’s police background, only to discover that no one at the Boston PD has even heard of Dekker.
Later, one of the cameramen show Adam footage from the camera in the woods of Dekker turning the camera off. He forgets (or does he do it on purpose?) to turn off the final camera. In the footage, he’s seen to be taking a spoon and doing something in the entrance of the Marrow. Whether it’s digging something or feeding something, the grainy footage doesn’t show much. But it does show Dekker crying alone afterwards.
Enraged that Dekker has been hiding things from him, Adam decides to go out to the Marrow without Dekker. He begins to form an idea that Dekker’s son plays a role in the going-ons.
Adam and his cameraman go to the hole alone and seemingly find nothing. Adam shouts at the entrance, and his boot is grabbed off his foot. While trying to get the boot back, they’re surprised by the arrival of a furious Dekker. He tells them off for being so invasive and loud, but suddenly they are attacked by a horde of monsters.
Adam attempts to get footage by himself, but he reluctantly leaves when more monsters are heard. They all climb into the car, but their exit is blocked by one of Dekker’s monsters, a sort of Jack-o-lantern, hooded creature who unveils his many appendages when his hood is removed.
They eventually are allowed to leave the cemetery. Back at Dekker’s house, the man in nearly hysterical. He tells them that he needs to go into the Marrow. Adam and the cameraman agree to leave only after he agrees to meet them again at sunrise.
But when they show up at his house that morning, he doesn’t answer the door. When Adam talks to his neighbour, he learns that no one has lived there in over a year. They then go inside the house and find it empty of all of Dekker’s evidence and drawings.
They enter his “storage closet” and find newspapers laid out on the floor, and a pile of shit…and chains hanging from the walls. When they reach the Marrow entrance, they find that it’s been closed.
The next footage doesn’t come until over a month later, a exhausted-looking Adam says that he never heard from Dekker again. He says that the camera 2, which was stolen soon after it was installed in the woods, had been returned to him. He then plays the footage, which is of the inside of the marrow.
Dekker is seen naked inside a cage, repeating that monsters are not real and that the Marrow doesn’t exist. The camera then cuts to someone walking into a house and into a bedroom, which is revealed to be Adam’s. The camera is set down on his bedside, then Adam and his wife wake to a loud, monstrous screech.
It’s an ambitious mockumentary, Digging up the Marrow. And most of the time, it works. Adam Green was a director I never gravitated towards, but this man has won my full attention after watching this. And all the stars for Ray Wise, who is a goddamn national treasure.
Our obsession and fascination with horror has to raise ethical questions. What are monsters, really? Are they the creatures with multiple-appendages and deformed bodies? Or is it the parents who reject their own children? Or it might even be us. Those of us who revel in other people’s displeasure.
I appreciate Digging up the Marrow for both having a lot of fun with the audience while actually trying to pose questions to its audience. It’s one film I’ll easily recommend.