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.
Rating: 4 stars