31 Days of Halloween — Day 20: Digging Up the Marrow (2014) — by Dr. Shock

31 Days of Halloween - Digging Up the Marrow 2014

Editor’s note: Dave “Dr. Shock” Becker is a host on Horror Movie Podcast, Universal Monsters Cast and Land of the Creeps horror podcasts. He is also the mastermind behind DVDInfatuation.com, a movie review blog where he is watching and posting one review every day until he reaches at least 2,500 movie reviews. Follow Doc on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation.

Digging Up the Marrow may feature Adam Green (the creative mind behind Frozen and the Hatchet series) in the lead role, but it is only superficially about the writer / director making his next movie. At its heart, this 2014 faux documentary is about a lifelong fan of monsters (Green) trying to prove they actually exist, that the creatures he fell in love with as a child aren’t just figments of his imagination, and watching this particular quest unfold was enough to keep me on the edge of my seat.

Adam Green has received his share of fan mail over the years, but a package sent to him by a Mr. William Dekker (Ray Wise) contained something quite extraordinary. Dekker, a former private investigator from Boston, forwarded Green a notebook filled with drawings of strange creatures, all of which he claims are real and living in an underground society he calls “The Marrow.” Intrigued by the prospect of coming face-to-face with an honest-to-goodness monster, Green and his creative partner Will Barratt interview Dekker, believing that, even if his story doesn’t check out, he’ll at least be a great addition to their upcoming documentary.

Though definitely a bit odd, Dekker does, indeed, convince Green that he’s located the entrance to The Marrow, and while the rest of the world, including Barratt and Green’s wife Rileah (Vanderbilt), seems to think that Dekker is either insane or a skilled con man, Green believes he’s telling the truth, and sets up hidden cameras around the Marrow’s entrance in the hopes they’ll eventually reveal all of the secrets this fascinating new world might be hiding.

Though usually behind the camera, Green does a fine job as the star of Digging Up the Marrow, portraying an artist so fixated on what he’s deemed the discovery of a lifetime that he can’t concentrate on anything else (at one point, we sit in on a meeting where Sarah Elbert, the producer of the TV series Holliston, impatiently asks Green when he’ll be finished with the next season’s scripts, which he hasn’t started writing yet because he’s been too preoccupied with Dekker and his Marrow). Even the revelation that Dekker hasn’t been honest with him, which he discovers during a conversation with fellow director Tom Holland (Child’s PlayFright Night“) and writer Mick Garris (The Fly IIHocus Pocus) at a horror convention, isn’t enough to damper Green’s enthusiasm, and his steadfast determination is what makes Digging Up the Marrow as engaging as it is.

There are some interesting cameos scattered throughout (Kane Hodder even shows up to view some of the footage that Barratt shot at the Marrow), and in those scenes when we do see them, the movie’s creatures (designed by Alex Pardee) are jarring, to say the least. But in the end, Digging Up the Marrow is a movie for horror fans by a horror fan. Having stirred the imaginations of thousands of people with his movies, Adam Green got his stirred a bit as well, and that is what makes Digging Up the Marrow such a satisfying experience.

—Dr. Shock

Dr. Shock’s links:
Dave writes daily movie review on DVDinfatuation.com
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Dave covers the Monsters Universe, new and classic, on Universal Monsters Cast
Dave covers Westerns on We Deal in Lead
Dave appears on another horror podcast called Land of the Creeps

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2 thoughts on “31 Days of Halloween — Day 20: Digging Up the Marrow (2014) — by Dr. Shock


    Day 20 – Mark of the Vampire

    Quite possibly the most legendary lost horror film ever made was 1927’s London After Midnight. This Lon Chaney Sr. film is apparently so cared about and sought after that there’s even been attempts to reconstruct the film with just still photos. Chaney’s character of Prof. Burke may be a character that very few people, if any, still alive today have seen fully in a movie, but he still lives on in inspiring future horror figures. One such figure that was influenced by Chaney in London After Midnight was the title character in the Babadook film from a few years ago. With each year that passes since the creation of London After Midnight, it’s becoming less and less likely that a copy of the film will ever be found hidden in someone’s attic or storage unit. A real shame too that horror fans are not able to experience a horror classic starring the most legendary silent era horror star and directed by Tod Browning, one of the bigger names in horror filmmaking in those early days of filmmaking.

    The real irony in all of this is that despite the fact that it’s been since 1967, when the last known print of London After Midnight was destroyed, it’s almost as if Browning could see into the future and knew that his film would become lost. A mere eight years after London After Midnight was made, so it’s still not a lost film, Browning set out to remake the film, this time using this new fancy development known as sound. Even without knowing the backstory with London After Midnight, there’s a lot of intrigue when you first hear about 1935’s Mark of the Vampire. As I already said, it’s directed by Tod Browning. He’s the man who helped usher horror into the talking era with his Universal Picture, Dracula. Joining him is Dracula himself, Bela Lugosi, playing Count Mora, who you could argue is exactly like Count Dracula. Also along for the ride is Lionel Atwill, who despite not having much of a name for himself just yet, he’d end up becoming one of the more recurring stars of the Universal Monster films until his death a decade later. So even without knowing anything else about the film, I was pumped to see this non-Universal Monster film from the very peak of the Universal Monsters era.

    Initially, things do go pretty well. We’re introduced to a plot that comes across as being different from the typical vampire tale. Instead of retelling Dracula, there’s a far greater emphasis on the mystery of the death of Sir Karell Borotyn and whether or not the suspected vampires of Count Mora and Luna is behind the deaths. Nearly everyone in the entire village buys into the idea that vampires not only exist, but you’re always at risk of being killed by them. Naturally, once Borotyn is found dead with two bite-like marks on his neck, they believe he must be a victim of Mora. The only one that is entirely dismissive of such a notion from the beginning is Atwill’s character of Inspector Neumann. It creates a fun dynamic of Neumann suspecting everyone and everyone being generally confused when Neumann confronts them. The longer the film goes on, the more I’m interested in the question of whether or not Mora and Luna are actually vampires or if they’re just goth killers.

    While Lugosi does his best to just portray Dracula again, with the only differences being that there’s a wound on the side of his head and he remains silent, it’s his daughter, Luna, that nearly steals the show. The character of Luna has a great look to her, with being slightly seductive while being creepy in her silence. Luna is clearly not just one of Dracula’s random brides that were ultimately forgettable in this time period. Also creepy is the general atmosphere and sets. It’s certainly cheap looking, but there’s a plethora of cobwebs, bats flying around, and fog. The mood of the film is on point.

    My interest in the film does begin to wane as I become frustrated with how little Neumann, Mora, and Luna are actually in the film. Up until the very last scene, we don’t even get to hear any lines from Mora, which seems like a waste of Bela Lugosi. The big reveal at the end of the film only further caused me to not care. It turns out that not only did Borotyn get killed by his friend, Baron Otto, but Mora and Luna aren’t even vampires, they’re just actors! It becomes this great big complicated mess as it’s revealed that various characters began to suspect Otto of the killing, so an elaborate plan was created to trick him into being hypnotized and showing how he made Borotyn’s death look as if it was caused by a vampire. When we do finally get to hear Mora and Luna speak, they’re laughing about another successful acting gig, convincing Otto that they had really been vampires. Truthfully, this final act is so all over the place that I’m not entirely sure if I understood everything that was happening. If there is any legitimate confusion, I can’t say the end result has made me want to go back and re-watch Mark of the Vampire to get a better grasp on what happened. There’s even the frustration over not knowing if this should be considered a serious horror or merely a parody.

    Overall, I had high hopes going into Mark of the Vampire and while the film initially did deliver, it tried too hard to have a complicated twist ending that left me not interested in the movie altogether. I can’t say it was bad enough to actively avoid, but I’d recommend anyone interested in watching this to go in with the understanding that all of the great potential set-up at the beginning of the film is ruined thanks to the ending. Still, Count Mora and Luna excelled for the limited time they had on the screen though.

    Rating: 5.5/10

  2. Day 20: Dracula Untold (2014)

    Dracula Untold is an origin story the focuses on Vlad the Impaler’s change into a vampire. There’s a lot of action but given Vlad’s life was full of warfare I found the action appropriate. Luke Evans does a great job as a sympathetic Dracula. He is forced into becoming a monster to save his people and the tragic consequences will lead to Dracula’s wickedness after centuries of brooding. He is strong and quickly adapts to his new found power. I love how he commands nature and can turn into a cloud of bats. The cave scenes with the old vampire are creepy and dark. I’ve watched this film a few times and it always pulls me in with it’s gothic look and tragic monster narrative. 7.5/10

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