Saturday, 4 August 2018

The Secret of Marrowbone

Sergio G. Sánchez, 2017, Spain 

Evidently running from domestic horror, a mother and her children escape to a remote big house and call themselves Marrowbone (now there’s a name that’s trying hard). There, they try to hide away and keep to themselves, at least until Jack (George MacKay) turns twenty-one. But the ghosts of the past are not easily shaken, even when she declares that they should all have collective amnesia of it.

While other recent horrors are trying to stretch the ambient and ambiguous corners of horror, and where dramas like ‘First Reformed’ and ‘Custody’ utilise horror techniques and atmospheres, ‘The Secret of Marrowbone’ is agreeably old school in its gothic genre intents: there’s a family secret and there’s a crumbling house. These are essential ingredients for this kind of thing and, mostly, Sergio G. Sánchez’s script directs with attentiveness to shadows and delivers with decent scenes of creepiness – the youngest son chasing after dice and a descent through a chimney, for example. But there’s some negligible dialogue, some confusing geography and messing around with temporal displacement. There’s also an archness that belies a faint air of awkward over-insistence as things are put in place, but after the set up it gradually settles down and gets better. Like Sánchez’s renowned script for ‘The Orphanage’, there’s obvious thought and planning here that means that the final revelation is mostly earned. Or you may roll your eyes. But it’s a decent if minor and self-conscious thriller where – as with ‘The Orphanage’ – Sánchez proves ultimately as ruthless as he does sentimental.  

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