Digging Up the Marrow (2014)
The Marrow is real.
I find myself watching found footage movies as though one of these days the perfect one is going to happen around, and the entire world will realize how awesome they could be if done right. It's theoretically not something that should be that hard to do - and if anything building tension should be easier than through normal means, since it adds to the effect that the viewer is there (theoretically). It never seems to happen though, it always seems to somewhere go so terribly wrong - from either holding onto it's suspense for way too long, or pacing that's so dull you would rather go to sleep. Can this movie dig up some fun, or will it be destined to make your bones ache?
Digging Up The Marrow is essentially a movie about hunting monsters. It's a movie that wants to believe monsters are real, that they are out there, and that you can come along for the ride to find out that it's the truth. A horror genre director (of movies I've actually seen) ends up getting some fan mail one day, and is pretty stricken with the effort put into it, detailing this whole hidden world of monsters. So stricken is he by the quality of it, that he decides to go meet the man, and after a few meetings decides to start a bit of a documentary and record the process in the hopes he will in fact get proof for what he's always wanted to prove since he was a kid - monsters are real.
Now, the self-proclaimed monster hunter has his own theory about these creatures. You see, he claims that all these monsters are living underground in a place he calls The Marrow. Essentially, it's a place just like up here, with cities and people who live, love, hate, play and kill - except the people aren't what you'd call "normal." Who are these people-monsters? He theorizes that they are the odd-born children of the world - those kid's who don't die, but just straight up disappear. These deformed, strange, or unnatural children all end up in the Marrow, where they build their own little culture and cities just like any normal civilization. He's been tracking openings into the Marrow for years now - some easier to find than others - although he's never been down there before, and has commissioned dozens of artists to draw renditions of the creatures he's seen - probably well into the double digits.
All of this news is exciting for the director, as he desperately wants to believe in it's truthfulness. They set up cameras and go out to the Marrow opening, but it's too dark for their cameras to pick up anything when the hunter points it out - and he refuses to let them use lights since they will most likely scare off the 'monsters' and he really doesn't want to lose such a well defined opening - as they have a tendency to close up shop and move elsewhere if they feel people are getting to close to them. A couple of nights in, however, the director makes the cameraman turn his light on and the brief glimpse is enough to get the director all riled up. It seems like an upward trend towards success until things start not adding up - and the truthfulness of the monster hunter starts to come into question. Is everything just made up, or is the truth more than a person can handle?
The premise is quite interesting, being a fan of cryptids and monsters I can associate and appreciate the director's desire that these things - creatures, monsters, freaks - are out there and real. Having skeptics to counterpoint it from within the Horror industry with disbelief and their own experiences with the hunter also help to keep a bit of mystery surrounding if this is all just a show being put on by a crazy guy or reality is in fact stranger than fiction. Effects work is pretty well done, which helps out for being a debate point during the plot as well. That being said, there is also a distinct element of "be careful what you wish for" involved, and in turn leads to one of the found footage common ball-droppers: the sub-par ending.
Really though, i guess we should talk about that in general. Found footage has a few negative tendencies that tend to crop up all the time in their presentations. Pacing issues tends to be one of these things - plenty of moments that feel like pointless filler to fluff out run time in effect feeling like the movie is bogging down and causing it to get boring. This movie doesn't get effected too much by this aspect of it, primarily because there's that moment of "is this guy crazy and going to kill these people" going through most of the slower moments - which isn't to say there aren't moments that feel as though they are unnecessary during the run time, just not as noticeable as, say, Paranormal Activity. Those moments of slowness help to add the feeling of tension, but you need to use that tension wisely and have proper interest-keeping moments in order to make the experience entertaining.
The other thing is, as previously mentioned, the "dropped ending." Considering most found footage movies like to do that thing where the entire first ninety percent of the movie is just building tension for the final moment, the ending ends up being far more critical than it usually would, making if feel that much worse if it doesn't live up to it's expectations. Part of this is overstaying it's welcome - the ending of the movie coming back again after it should have easily ending earlier. In this case, the logical ending is followed up with another "found footage" element that ends up feeling as though it didn't fully think itself out, and in turn kind of leaves an unsatisfying taste in the mouth - similar to what I felt with Apollo 18.
While not exactly making it to my recommendation list of found footage movies for people to try, it was at least an alright attempt. A few good jump scares exist, and the effects work is far more enjoyable to watch then other entries in the sub-genre. I like the premise of being careful what you wish for, I love the fact that a good portion of on-screen actors are just billed as themselves - making them a bit easier to connect to than just some nameless punk kids out in the woods. The main highlight, however, is the three to five "monsters" we see for however brief a time on the screen, as they are quite interesting looking. If your into the genre, then you might as well check it out, but I wouldn't say it's got huge chances of winning over new fans either.