Horror works best when the frightening moments are left in the blank spaces. We can have scream’s and see horrific sights but the elements that truly grip us are what we do not see or the things that go by unexplained and we are left to conjure the terrifying within our own minds. The Secret of Marrowbone uses this as the launching point to hook us as audience members and keep us watching through the experience.
A family enters a run-down old mansion way out in the middle of the countryside. The mother marks a line in the dust and says once they cross it all things before will be forgotten and this is their new start, especially Father. The family is Jack (George MacKay) the eldest at twenty years old, Billy (Charlie Heaton) the angsty younger brother, Jane (Mia Goth) the peacemaker and little Sam (Mathew Stagg). They live in the house under the name Marrowbone, fix up the house and have a fun time, one day out all of the children meet Allie (Anya Taylor-Joy). Meanwhile, the mother is getting sicker and sicker and eventually passes. If her death is known before Jack turns twenty-one the children will be put into care so it has to remain a secret. One peaceful day a shot comes through the window, Jane looks through and there is a man standing across the house, she yells, Jack runs and then it cuts to months later. This is where the movie truly begins.
Now it is months later and all the mirrors have either been removed or covered in sheets, there is a large red stain on the ceiling and they all speak of a ghost in the loft. Only Jack is allowed to venture into town for the essentials.
While in town one day he meets up with Allie and they clearly want to be together, however also on the scene is Tom (Kyle Soller) a lawyer that is also interested in Allie and is seeing to the Marrowbonbe’s affairs.
The cast is one of the most solid elements of the movie. Everyone fills a certain role but they are able to reach different emotional levels, from being passive aggressive to full rage. The standout is Anya Taylor-Joy, who brings such realized, caring nature to the performance.
Some of the most effective moments of the movie are the sequences of fright. We all know them, dark room, something’s in there, and somethings gonna go boo! But this movie times its shots very well and there is an appropriate amount of buildup to them. The most effective element is that there are moments when something can happen and all the air gets sucked out of the room for a few moments. Sometimes something does go boo, others nothing happens so we are always left guessing.
Within these moments are tender ones though, moments of the family having fun, joking. An entirely doom and gloom movie would ultimately become a purely depressing experience, contrast needs to happen.
By the end of the movie, all is revealed. Perhaps if all wasn’t it would be a better movie, but I digress. It took me a bit to go over some of the details that didn’t sit right with me immediately when everything was revealed but after going over it it does all hold up well.
The Secret of Marrowbone cuts deep by leaving you not knowing when it will cut or even what by. When it does it is sharp and efficient. It has a heart, which many horror movies lack, comes with a talented and invested cast and understands the mechanics of the genre very well.
This isn’t the main problem, but it is one of the many that plagues Hereditary.
Horror is a medium that at it’s best reveals our deepest insecurities and troubles as people. This movie means nothing and simply seeks to gross and horrify us with, the images and sounds it slaps us with.
We open with a house and inside it is a family that is preparing for a funeral. It is the grandmother who has died and the mother, Annie, is dreading the ordeal. Meanwhile on the side is her daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) that keeps to herself, draws in her sketchbook and makes a clicking noise with her mouth. The son Peter is a pretty normal, apathetic teenager. We learn that Annie’s mother was very nice at all during her life and won’t be missed now she’s passed. But just because she’s passed doesn’t she’s done tormenting her daughter and grandchild and all sorts of strange things start happening from here on.
You get to a point where you’ve seen enough movies to have an understanding of typical genre movies. In comedy, you tell when there will be a misunderstanding or a bit of slapstick. Horror is one where you know if there is blank space on the screen then something will move or jump out, or when there will be a build-up to something and nothing will happen only for the character to take a breath and that is when the thing goes boo! This movie is guilty of being predictable. I could tell how the scenes were going to play as soon as they started.
For some of it you don’t know where it’s going then you don’t care because all it’s doing is stitching one gross-out, disturbing moment with the next to give you a tapestry of horror. It doesn’t, it’s just annoying.
In the recent years, we have gotten some original voices and experiences in horror movies. Like, Don’t Breathe, Mother!, Get Out, A Cure for Wellness, A Quiet Place, Unsane and The Babadook. All of these movies tap into a core fear that individuals feel or the problem of people as a whole and have a whole vision. These movies will be remembered, this one will be forgotten.
It is easy to overlook the acting when the concept doesn’t work or the writing is garbage. But this movie does have actors that genuinely good performances. Toni Collette as Annie truly and clearly conveys terror across her face, I believe she is scared in these situations. Likewise, Alex Wolff has to be a few things over the course of the movie and does them all well. What a shame that these talented people and all their effort go into a big pile of garbage like this.
This movie is not boring, it is however frustrating. Frustrating in how it uses the most simple, stupidest tolls to scare you, when it doesn’t, it just goes boo! Frustrating that all these actors and crew had to waste their time on a rotten project. Horror is a brilliant genre that can reveal things about ourselves, not this, it’s just a waste.
Avengers was the accumulation of years of planning and character development that had originally started in 2008’s Iron Man. It wasn’t the first to bring multiple characters together from other movies but this was the one that clearly had a plan, each character got their own movie so they could all be here and gathered together. In the end, it made a promise of a villain that there was more. Infinity War is the payoff.
Now, ten years later and eighteen movies we have arrived at where the plan was apparently alway to be. Many heroes, many different locations, visuals, effects, moments etc. This movie takes everything in the toy box and throws it at us and introduces new ones while doing so.
Only recently has MARVEL done better in having better villains in their movies. But most of them weren’t really serious threats, they were scene chewing, fun bad guys. Thanos (Josh Brolin) is one of the biggest and baddest of villains in the comic book world and has now been realised on the big screen. He stands eight feet high, bulky with muscle and a plan that will devastate everyone. He believes that there is too much population in the universe so he has taken it upon himself to wipe out half the population to stabilise it. This is quite mad and the characters point it out. Dread is packed into the way the characters talk about him and he proves that he is indeed someone to fear. Not only does he pack a punch, but can take one and has a sophisticated way with words and philosophy. Brains and brawn, he most certainly has a few key elements of a great screen villain.
His plan revolves around acquiring six Infinity Stones that all control a certain aspect of existence (reality, mind, time, soul etc.). Once he has all of them he can accomplish his goal with a literal snap of his fingers. These Infinity Stones have been scattered throughout the other MARVEL movies so for us watching we can connect the dots. Now the race is on to either get to a stone before he can, get them away from him or destroy them. Failure means the death of half the universe.
To describe all the different scenarios going on and who is where will take up too much space in the review, so I will simply name the players. Iron Man (Robert Doweny Jr.), Cpatian America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Panther (Chadwick Bosseman), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Winter Soilder (Sebastian Stan), Dr. Strange (Benedict Cummberbatch), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Vision (Paul Bentny), War Machine (Don Cheattle), Falcom (Anthony Mackie), Star Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Groot (Vin Diesel) and Rocket (Bradley Cooper). There are a few more but that’s enough.
This is obviously a big cast. Approximately twenty characters that are not just present but are essentially their own main character. What helps is that they have had their own movies previously to help develop them so they can come into this movie smoothly, a lot has been established so the writers have plenty to work with and the actors know the characters inside and out. But what if this is the first movie you’ve seen and have not viewed any of the others yet? Well, you’ll probably suffer from overload, I don’t recommend this as your first MARVEL movie but it will definitely be someones. There is just enough in terms of efficiency establishing the characters in their moments of introduction to understanding who they are and roll with it for the rest of the movie.
Beyond having all the characters on-screen at the same time what the filmmakers have to consider is the different visual style all the other heroes have. The Guardians have a stronger, disco colour pallet, Black Panther has more jungle colors and Dr. Strange comes with psychedelic visuals. All of them have to be represented here. They are. Along with that, this is (along with tone) the darkest MARVEL movie color wise. There is a lot of blacks on-screen, deep, true blacks, contrasting with other deep, vivid colours that pop out. It makes for an engaging image and adds to the dire nature of the story.
As I have mentioned at least once in my recent review’s of the MARVEL movies the screenwriters are prone to adding quips in the dialog. Or sometimes having what feels like mandatory jokes happen every ten minutes. The tone of the movies has always been a light-hearted one to a degree so it wasn’t off-tone and they were funny so that also wasn’t a bother. They are present here as well, a character makes comments on the others attire, name, mentality etc. But these are moments of characters either being themselves within moments of respite or even dealing with this seemingly hopeless situation.
This movie naturally comes with its share of action set pieces. As previously stated we have had many other movies to get to know these characters and in the time they have in this movie is enough to connect with them. So we care a little about who is going into battle. But when it comes to the fights everyone has different abilities and they use them like great pieces in a strategy game, others get close, while one attacks from a distance and another distracts (these are just examples).
A popular criticism of other MARVEL movies is that their aren’t any real stakes because none of the main characters ever die. Only a handful of important characters have died and these movies are light as a feather and so forth. Well, it’s as if this really was all part of the plan because now characters do indeed die. I won’t spoil who (go see the movie!), but early on they do and later on others. So being that some can it means anybody can die, which adds great gravitas to the action scenes that now have the biggest stakes of all.
I have to mention directors Anthony and Joe Russo and scriptwriting team Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely that took on this monumental task of juggling all these characters and taking all the story threads and weaving them into something not only consistent but effective.
This movie doesn’t work as a single character arc, nor does it work as a self-contained story, because of the immense story and characters, this is actually part one of two. This is a grand accumulation of seeing all of the characters and worlds we have come to know and love over the course of many movies and face something that is too big for any one of them to handle on their own. It shows all the amazing images and feet’s of imagination and drama that the world of Superheroes is able to present before us. All the fun times and pulp from before is brutally stripped away and since we had that mindset in the previous movies the darkness and brutality hit all the harder.
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