The fourth wall is a delicate thing. It can be easily broken. All it takes is a quick glance at the camera, a nod, or a wink, and suddenly the audience is pulled from the realism of the story. When accidental, it can be devastating to a film. When purposeful, the director begins to walk a thin line between satire and cheap comedic effect.
If there is anything Adam Green's film Digging Up The Marrow does right, it is walking this tight rope. Primarily because Green commits such a significant portion of his film to his life, experiences, and passions behind the camera. We see the real world of horror conventions mixed in with his post production work, the stress of maintaining a steady stream of creativity, and his fan-like passion for the horror genre and the monsters it produces.
The film comes across as a homage for most of its runtime. Not a homage to a particular sub genre, film, or director (though a case could definitely be made for its satirical homage of found footage films), but more-so a homage to horror fans. This guy basically made a film for horror fans. And to this effort, I applaud him. He showed legitimate (and some hilariously illegitimate) interviews in the field and honest interactions with the fan base. It was a genuine film with a plot, but he found a way to work in the everyman that makes the entire genre like its own cult following.
[But seriously, what other genre has the following of the horror genre? Do those who love drama go line up at the theater for every drama film that graces the screen? Aren't scifi fanatics regularly divided amidst certain titles? Horror is perhaps the only genre that is fully embraced, despite cliques of preference, by the whole. A majestic macabre.]
Sadly, this is where my love and admiration for the film ends. While thoroughly entertained throughout, I was expecting the entertaining to be coming from scares, not laughs. Now Green is not one to deny satirical, humor-driven horror. His Hatchet series of films is this to a fault. But Green has shown another side of directing, one that shows his respectable range, when he made Frozen (no, not the Disney movie) and Spiral (no, not the Marvel villain), which had far more naturally-developing tension and drama. I expected to see a combination of these two themes, and while DUTM delivered on both fronts, it was decisively in favor of the humor/satirical side of things. There isn't necessarily anything wrong with that, as the gentleman excels at this, but the subject matter called for so much more than the glimpses we receive.
Hatchet has shown Green has little restraint for a saturation of gore and practical effects work. This was part of my excitement for this film, as I was expecting his passion for effects to bring to life the imaginative yet haunting creatures of the Marrow with monster artwork by Alex Pardee. Sadly, what we get are mere glimpses for the first hour and a climax that, while having some great shots, also fizzles before it starts to burn bright. As much as I had a smile on my face throughout the film, I still felt a sagging disappointment as the credits rolled that just too much creativity was left to the imagination from whence it came. Some of the final shots were only teasers for what else could have spawned from the Marrow's pits, which then caused a swell of sadness to grip me after laughter had held my attention for much of the first two acts.
I won't say the film was a waste. I think there were many redeemable moments, especially from a horror director that appears to have a genuine semblance of a heart for horror fans. But my respect for the film does not quite reach its peak because of the lack of execution on the film's main attraction. Call me superficial, but like DUTM seemingly referenced from Jurassic Park itself, "we are actually going to have monsters...in our monster movie, right?"