Director: Adam Green
Cast: Ray Wise, Adam Green, Will Barratt
Spoilers Within: Yes
Film 13 – #25 in ‘The Hard Drive Randomiser’
For a while, Alex Pardee was one of my favourite ‘creature’ artists. His explosions of colour and cutesy characters mixed with grotesque horrors always appealed, and yet, for some reason, over the years I’ve become less charmed by his work. Impressed, absolutely, but much less captivated with. One of the primary reasons I watched (or even heard of) Adam Green’s faux-documentary Digging Up The Marrow was because of Pardee, and in that respect, it certainly didn’t disappoint in providing his easily identifiable style.
It’s an intriguing fiction – one whose tale is best discovered on one’s own – but the basic concept is that Adam Green (as himself) is filming a documentary (about himself) when he receives a letter from a possibly deranged, possibly sincere Ray Wise, cast as a former state trooper obsessed with the creatures and freaks that Green uses in his films (such as Hatchet) and Pardee includes in his art (such as this). It’s a pretty good set-up, and fortunately, it sticks with this strange idea and makes for a decent, if not hollow, monster movie.
The subhuman designs – BagHead in particular – are revolting, and with efficient sound mixing and ghastly colouring, they’re genuinely impressive to look at. Greg Aronowitz’s sculpting of Pardee’s monsters is a terrific achievement: these hideous, anatomically deformed beasts give the film a much-needed edge and makes ignoring the threadbare plot and the chronic self-reflection from Green possible.
There’s not a huge deal of things interesting about the main narrative – Green and co. back-patting and constantly emphasising their achievements is tiresome – but the Ray Wise plot is smartly paced and believably staged enough to be inherently watchable. He’s mysterious, confounding, and devious enough to carry it off well, and without him, the film probably would have suffered immeasurably, even with the multiple hell beasts.
Digging Up The Marrow is an appealing, often enjoyable monster movie, with mid-to-great acting and – for once – a scare or two that was effective without being intrusive. The success of this fantastical atmosphere is chiefly attributed to Pardee’s sickening visions brought vividly to life by Aronowitz, which boosted what could merely have been an irritating showcase of Adam Green’s hubris.