Magnet Releasing has become one of the great platforms for quality storytelling. With 34 genre titles to their credit and counting, they have eye for stories that connect as much as frighten. Unique visions such as Rubber and John Dies at the End. Anthologies like the V/H/S franchise and ABCs of Death. Foreign cinema like Trollhunter, I Saw the Devil, The Host, and Rec 4. Quiet storytelling like The Innkeepers, Last Shift, and/or The Eyes of My Mother.
Written and directed by Sergio G. Sánchez (screenwriter of The Orphanage), Marrowbone is Sanchez’s debut genre feature. Part supernatural genre film and part tense psychological drama, Marrowbone is cinematic poetry that has a literary feel. The narrative focuses on a family that is forced to come together and survive after their parents are no longer around (mother passed and father was estranged). Taking place primarily in one location, the small ensemble is a force bringing authentic emotion and an innocence. The family is led by the oldest brother “Jack” (George MacKay). Living in a secluded home, the family pulls their weight keeping the house running and making those believe that their mother has not passed. Burdened with the guilt of these dark secrets from their past and compound their isolation, Billy (Charlie Heaton), Sam (Matthew Stagg) and their sister Jane (Mia Goth) just want to be left alone. The only link to the outside world is a young woman who lives on the hill above them named Allie (Anya Taylor-Joy). Allie befriends the siblings and fills in that void that the family has been missing. Jack and Allie build a fondness for each other that challenges the family dynamic and the promise that Jack has made to always protect them no matter what. This promise is endangered with not only the fragility of their lies but a supernatural force that runs through the house causing the family to cover the mirrors and be on edge. Building on the strangeness of their family structure, Jack, Billy, Jane and Sam are faced with recapturing a chest that sits in the attic. This chest may hold relief and answers to the dark secrets that bind the family to the home and the past that connects them all.
There was a lot to love about Marrowbone. A cautionary tale that is stretched out over a two-hour run time, the film feels a bit drawn out as we see the characters and conflict develop. Effectively scary when it benefits the films right, Marrowbone is not a true horror film. Like The Orphanage, there is a visual beautiful, a surreal feel. It feels like the world is painted before you. The power comes from Sanchez being involved on every level and using the lessons from his previous films. The construction of the family, the house becoming a character and how it reflects the horror that unfolds is a master stroke. Casting some rising names in genre film and television did not hurt at all as the performers brought dimension and an edge to each character. Names like Heaton from Stranger Things, Taylor-Joy from Split, Goth from A Cure for Wellness and MacKay from 11.22.63, we see performers that understand how to cultivate the emotion of cinematic horror effectively. It’s funny after watching Marrowbone, you wonder if a certain actress is being type casted in tragic roles and broken characters.
The score reflects the raw emotion and fear which faces the family with the sound design infusing dread. Composer Fernando Velázquez, understands the style and mood Sanchez wants to convey and had films by the master Guillermo del Toro. One of the true beauties of this film is the lighting and color. Shot by DP Xavi Giménez (The Machinist), Gimenez sets the mood throughout the house and makes the darkness more than just covering but makes it a place for evil things to hide and the boogie man to wait. The production design surrounding the house is brilliant as it becomes a prison through the conflict. Like The Eyes of My Mother, the story challenges in ways that connect and yet are psychologically unique for this particular situation. As you watch Marrowbone in theaters and/or on VOD,
keep in mind the challenge this family faces to keep this secret and the very close bond they have with each other. Subtle hints are laid out for the sharp eye and Sanchez happily misdirects in a variety of ways including well timed jump scares. Flashbacks and the entity in the attic feed into that strength and later the tragedy that all the characters have a part in. All the talent is wonderful, but Taylor-Joy in a limited but emotional role balances care with caution that does not really take full effect until the final act.
With its share of both sweet and scary moments, Marrowbone’s twists are effective and tie up the timeline nicely. This film for me, needs a tighter edit. Why I did enjoy the how the scares were laid out and the breaking up the story arches, I believe they could have cut some of the family’s angst out and been more streamlined. It would have been just as effective. Think a truly dark The Chronicles of Narnia style story that stabs your heart like the broken promise at the end.
Check out Marrowbone now in theaters and on VOD.
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