Director: Sergio G. Sánchez
Writer: Sergio G. Sánchez
Starring: George MacKay, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Mia Goth, Matthew Stagg, Kyle Soller, Nicola Harrison, and Tom Fisher
The Secret of Marrowbone (AKA simply Marrowbone in some countries) is a 2017 horror film from writer and director Sergio G. Sánchez. It’s a fairly familiar story about the past and mental illness, but it does manage to be entertaining as it follows some typical plot points.
Rose Marrowbone (Nicola Harrison) takes her four children to a remote and isolated house in America to escape her abusive ex-husband. They start a new life, forgetting about their past, and start to settle into happier times. The traveling takes a lot out of Rose who falls ill and dies, with her final wish being that her children keep her death a secret until the eldest, Jack’s (George MacKay) twenty-first birthday.
There are two sides to this film. At points it’s a fairly standard and straightforward ghost story, with a chilling atmosphere and a growing sense of dread and fear. On the other hand, it’s also a period drama set in 1969, that follows the Marrowbone family as they try to keep their mother’s wish. They have problems arise as the local lawyer starts digging into their history, Jack has a blossoming relationship with Allie (Anya Taylor-Joy), one of the residents of the nearby town. It’s the dramatic side where the film really shines, and it starts to lose its greatness when it strays into a more cliched ghost story. There’s a moment when Jack’s sister is signing documents, forging her mother’s signature, that’s tenser than any single moment of horror in the rest of the film.
George MacKay does a really good job carrying the film, even if his character does feel a little flat. Likewise Anya Taylor-Joy is really good in every scene that she’s in. The only one who is built up is the lawyer, Tom Porter (Kyle Soller), who feels more complete than everyone else on screen. He’s slimy and untrustworthy. The performances are all really great and it masks the small amount you actually know about the characters. Still, some of the more emotional moments later on don’t really hit as hard as they should, which is a real shame.
Late in the film there’s a twist that Shyamalan would be proud of. I genuinely didn’t see it coming at all, and it’s played out really well. It does what every good twist should do and make you think about all of the events leading up to that point and see them in a different light. It probably doesn’t hold up to much scrutiny, but it packs a powerful punch when it’s first revealed.
Overall, The Secret of Marrowbone is a really solid horror. It does feel like a missed opportunity for being an even better drama, but it’s still memorable and engaging. The twist and great performances overshadow the negatives, even if they do stand out more as you think about it after the film ends.
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