Posts Tagged ‘Ray Wise’

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One review I read called “Digging up the Marrow” something to the effect of “Adam Green’s love letter to horror fans”. I don’t know if that was paraphrasing or just plagiarism, but the phrase really does do a good job of both hooking a potential viewer and explaining the movie. I’ve always stated that I like movies about movies, and this one is a movie about making a documentary. It’s shot as a documentary, but it makes no claims of truth; we know we’re watching a scripted, acted movie. What is endearing and interesting about “Digging up the Marrow” is that everything except the main plot is reality. It’s a weird gimmick and admittedly one that will likely appeal much more to fan’s of Adam Green’s work, but I’m one of those guys and this review will be biased. Deal with it.

The movie is set in real life Southern California in the present day (2014), where horror director Adam Green (played by himself) and his production company are working on several movie titles as well as the next season of their horror-sitcom, “Holliston”. Before the action starts, Green receives a letter from a man that claims that monsters really exist and he has proof. The movie you’re watching, now, is the documentary that Green films to bring these monsters to the public. It starts innocently enough, with a highly skeptical but highly hopeful Green meeting with a slightly unstable looking William Dekker (Wise). The investigation progresses and the crew goes deeper down the rabbit hole because Green really wants to find monsters. As he (and other casual interviews during the opening) explains, it is every horror fan’s dream that these monsters, the stuff of their dreams, really do exist. Wouldn’t that be a great world? It’s what these guys make movies about and what we spend our hard earned dollars to watch. And so the film continues, with Green slowly taking over Wise’s role as the believer trying to get the truth out. The role switch is interesting and leads to some very entertaining and exciting moments. What really keeps you interested is how much you agree with what Green does. Usually in a horror movie the main character makes some dumb, cliché move, but Green knows all the cliché’s and he’s not following them. He makes some questionable decisions that you want to yell at him for, but then you put yourself in his shoes and… you’d do the same damn thing. That’s what makes “Digging up the Marrow” fun, putting yourself in Green’s position and thinking how you’d act.

A lot of the movie’s charm comes from it’s stabs at the horror culture and it’s denizens. We get a boat load of cameos, everyone from Kane Hodder (what Green movie would be complete without him) to Mick Garris. There are references galore to “Holliston” and “Hatchet”, and who doesn’t love the “Shinpads” posters? Okay, I’m getting a bit fan boy on you. But the whole movie feels like you’re at a horror convention. Lots of real people just like you who are just huge fans and want nothing more than to see some monsters and have a good time. There are plenty of jokes at the culture as well, but the film is just as quick to remind us of it’s good intentions.

“Who did your special effects?” is an entertaining theme from the movie. Of course it’s an ensemble crew, but special attention needs to be given to Alex Pardee, the twisted and beautiful mind behind “Digging up the Marrow”’s ‘monsters’. A very talented artist, Pardee’s work can be marveled at through a simple Google search. The guy isn’t really into gore and his creatures aren’t necessarily the most visually scary, but they are downright creative and awesome to look at. Whether the backstories given in the movie by Dekker are Pardee’s own or the work of Green’s imagination, they bring even more credibility to what you are watching. The art design in this movie is just so damn cool.

So visually, yea, this is pretty fun. Picture quality is good for what it is, a documentary. Same goes for sound. I’m not sure how much of this was really shot on low budget equipment and with on-location sound setups, but the movie was supposed to feel like a documentary and it really shines in that department. In this section I usually throw in a bit about any attractive women in the movie so I’ll give a shout out to Adam’s (ex)wife Rileah Vanderbilt, but that’s really, really not what this movie is about. We’re 100% focused on seeing monsters in the shadows, and we’re fine with that.

To close, “Digging up the Marrow” was a very entertaining way to spend a Friday with a few beers. The movie was not really reviewed well so I didn’t have many preconceptions, just an interesting story and a writer-director I knew I liked. While Green is no Don Coscarelli or Wes Craven, he certainly has his place within the modern pantheon of horror. It’s yet to be seen if he even wants to do something full blown “horror”, but for the time being I’ll keep watching “Holliston” and entertaining myself with his other flicks.

Story: 7

Visuals: 7

Fun Factor: 8

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Chillerama

Adam Green and Joe Lynch are having the best year in horror. Or ‘had’ may be more appropriate, but I digress. In 2011/2012, not only did the pair create and star in their own sitcom about aspiring horror writer/directors, they got the opportunity to make the quintessential embodiment of the horror film: The Anthology. Said anthology is the topic of this review, the delightfully inappropriate “Chillerama”. First of all, I am disappointed with myself that I had never even heard of this movie until I was reading a MoreHorror.com article about the best films of the year. At number two, I’d say they really got this one right. Second of all, I’m disappointed in the horror community at large for not making a bigger deal about this refreshing piece of schlock.

Overall, the movie is an endearing piece of classic horror cinema. From the black and white “Diary of Anne Frankenstein” to the pseudo-musical “I Was a Teenage Werebear”, “Chillerama” is a tour de force of all things goofball and all things horror. The whole concept revolves around the last showing at an old drive in theatre. A couple of horror movie aficionados head out to final show to catch a set of four classic drive in movies. There As “Chillerama” is an anthology of 4 (or five, depending on how you count it) films, I am going to break it down by segment for the rest of the review.

Adam Rifkin starts off our night by writing, directing and starring in the overly taboo “Wadzilla”. Easily my least favorite of the sequence, its semi porno-style storyline still manages to set the tone for what is to come. In the vein of the old 1950’s cautionary sci-fi flicks, a man having some trouble with his “little swimmers” decides to take an experimental drug to alleviate the problem. He is back up on his horse in no time, however the drug seems to work a little too well, as those things tend to do. Every time he becomes aroused, his future children grow to a massive size. Ray Wise has a great cameo as the prescribing doctor, and Adam Rifkin is hilarious in his role of clenching his crotch in agony every time he sees an attractive woman. The short concludes with a Godzilla style battle of the Army against a giant sperm that, among other things, attempts to make it’s way up the Statue of Liberty’s skirt. Thinly veiled innuendo is thrown around at will, and the 50’s style direction makes for a very entertaining bit of celluloid. As I said, definitely not my favorite, but after the first 25 minutes you know exactly what you are into with “Chillerama”. Take the time to pause, head to the snack bar, load up your Coke with whisky from your flask and get ready for the rest of the show.

The second segment is titled “I Was a Teenage Werebear”, and I can’t stress enough how appropriate that title is. Mocking the ‘60s and ‘70s musical flicks like “Grease” and “Beach Party”, “Werebear” is the story of the new boy in school trying to fit in wherever he can. The songs are cheesy and creative and the whole segment does a great job of emulating the style of the old high school movies, it just hits the wrong note in terms of content. Sure, gay high school guys that turn into big, gay, werewolf biker guys is funny on the surface, but I could have done without so much guy on guy action. Where I felt I should have been laughing about Werebears, I found my self cringing at overly graphic homosexuality. Tim Sullivan did a great job with the visual style of the piece, but I was too turned off by the story to actually appreciate it. But don’t turn it off here, no matter how offended you are. As these guys usually do, the producers have saved the best for last in the selection from Adam Green and the piece de resistance by Joe Lynch.

From its opening credits, “The Diary of Anne Frankenstein” promises to please. A black and white musical piece about Hitler finding the key to creating life in a Jewish girl’s diary, even it doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s campy atmosphere and outlandish use of the German language makes for a very entertaining piece of cinema. Adam Green comes across as the experienced story teller of the bunch, with every element in the segment working towards his ultimate goal. The fourth wall has been completely torn down, and occasionally other walls as well. Not only do film frames skip to the annoyance of the actors, but the players break through set walls and fall into previous scenes. It all comes across as goofy and low budget, which is exactly what a short monster movie with a Jewish Frankenstein monster should be. The actors aren’t quite as important as in the other segments, just because we already know the characters (Hitler, Anne Frank, Nazis and Frankenstein’s Monster). Overall this was a fun little bit from Adam Green. It’s not the greatest short in the world, but it’s fun and totally makes sense as the third segment of “Chillerama”.

The background story of “Chillerama” is set at the last showing at an aging drive in theatre. Between segments, we get little clips of this background action, Toby trying to ask out Mayna, Ryan trying to ask out the candy counter girl, etc. We also get glimpses of a zombie take over happening, all starting from a very disturbed graveyard encounter. After “Diary”, the fourth film on the plate for the moviegoers is “Deathication”, a lost print from an experimental director made to make you $h*t yourself. As an audience, we catch bits and pieces of this foreign piece of crap (pun intended) before the zombies start to overrun the theatre and all hell breaks loose. Since we’ve seen a bit more of these characters through the course of the movie, we really care about what is happening in this segment. The relationships between the two main guys and their respective love interests are kind of cute in a young love sort of way, and we really want the older brother to get his face ripped off. Cecil, the owner of the theatre, has been toying with offing himself throughout, and we really don’t want that to happen. In all, a great little story to bookend and fill in the gaps around the goofy little shorts. To make this segment even more appealing to us movie buffs (because who doesn’t like a movie about the movies), we get an ingenious reeling off of classic movie lines while zombie brains are sprayed across the screen. I can’t think of a better way to end a movie.

Story: 7

Visuals: 6

Fun Factor: 8