Real-life filmmaker Adam Green is, in the reality of the movie, making a documentary about monsters. He’s contacted by William Dekker (Ray Wise), who tells him that he’s found a nest of real monsters. Adam is intrigued and later obsessed with getting to the bottom of Dekker’s story. He and his cameraman Will (Will Barratt) go out to the woods with him and find more than they bargained for.
The film takes a fascinating look at the nature of monsters. They’re examined as necessary to people as an escape from reality and as archetypal underdogs. Dekker stresses that they’re misunderstood. He claims his Marrow, as he calls them, are seriously disfigured humans who live peacefully underground. However Dekker is actually the creepiest element in the movie; he’s hiding something and is clearly not all there. But his argument for the existence of the Marrow is strangely compelling, even when he can’t produce proof.
The most interesting thing about the movie is how it blends real life with fiction. Aside from Dekker, all the people in the film play themselves. The performances are strong, especially considering these folks are typically behind the camera rather than in front; Green, who gets most of the screen time, does quite well. What he doesn’t do is present himself as a likable person who makes sound decisions. Eventually he’s blundering around in the woods, screaming at and even reaching into the hole that marks the monster’s territory after something steals his boot.
Humor is used lightly and effectively. My favorite moment is when Dekker discusses a Marrow hideout near an IHOP. When questioned why there of all places, he answers straight-faced, “They like pancakes.” The pacing is a bit slow (we spend the first hour pretty much wondering if Green is going to end up in Dekker’s mystery room). There are occasional creepy moments, including a jump scare that genuinely made me jump. But the ending totally satisfies. It’s very much worth the wait.
I’m a fan of Green’s Hatchet series, and I trust him as a filmmaker to make something solid. Also, I was nerding out over cameos by Tony Todd, Kane Hodder, and Don Coscarelli (and to a lesser extent Tom Holland and Mick Garris). I wasn’t disappointed. Check it out if you’re in the mood for something thoughtful and disturbing.