Marrowbone Review – An Effectively Creepy Period Ghost Story
Starring George MacKay, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Mia Goth, Matthew Stagg
Written by Sergio G. Sánchez
Directed by Sergio G. Sánchez
I have always had a soft spot in my heart for period horror films, be they something action-packed and full of gore or a more slow burn experience where every scene builds and builds to a (hopefully) shocking climax. So when I heard about Marrowbone, a film with the backing of such talents as writer/directed Sergio G. Sánchez, producer J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage, A Monster Calls), and Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Split), I knew that this would be something I would need to set aside time for. And while I enjoyed the experience, I cannot deny that it is not without its faults.
The film follows Jack Marrowbone (MacKay), née Fairbairn, and his three siblings, Billy (Heaton), Jane (Goth), and Sam (Stagg), as they try to survive on their own after the passing of their mother. Befriending a local girl Allie (Taylor-Joy), the young family must try to make ends meet as they live in their family home during the late Summer and early Fall of 1969. However, a sinister presence in their home haunts their every step and a dark family secret could explode at any moment, unravelling everything these four have worked towards building.
Marrowbone is a classically inspired ghost story. It’s one that thrives off the atmosphere of its surroundings, doing everything it can in order to build a world where terror is truly ugly and the promise of salvation seems within reach of your fingertips. Gorgeously filmed by cinematographer Xavi Giménez (Darkness, The Machinist), we are taken into a seemingly idyllic and picturesque world.
The rarely-seen town by which the family lives is where the 1950’s “white picket fence” dream lives amongst the Optima-font embossed buildings. It’s where children run freely, filling the air with their laughter. It’s where a bicycle left leaning against a wall won’t worry about being stolen. It’s where everyone knows your name and asks, with genuine sincerity, how you and your family are doing. Between the town and the Marrowbone estate lies a beautiful landscape of rolling hills, grassy fields, and a beach with soft white sand and cerulean waves crashing into white meringue foam.
It’s in the Marrowbone estate itself where we see a crumbling, decaying wooden edifice that is slowly being overtaken by surrounding vegetation. While there are certainly signs of life, both outside and in, there is no denying that this building is as dry as the bones of the deceased animals littering the attic floor. The family wanders through the halls with unease, the scratches and groans of the walls and ceilings an effective, if not uninspired, mechanism.
While Marrowbone is undoubtedly pleasing on the eyes (major kudos to production design by Patrick Salvador), the main issues comes in the writing, which feels forced and almost contrived. Unable to decide if it wants to embrace its more poetic side or dive into the darkness of its evil, the film throws one twist after another at the viewer seemingly as a distraction but only resulting as a glaring issue. Even with all the misdirections, by the 2nd act of the film the viewer will almost certainly have guessed the unoriginal twist, leaving for a bland ending.
Highly predictable and certainly by-the-numbers, Marrowbone is still effectively creepy and looks beautiful. It won’t be considered a classic, by any stretch of the imagination, but there is certainly an audience who will enjoy the tale that Sánchez has weaved.