Fleeing their past, four English siblings – Jack (George MacKay), Jane (Mia Goth), Billy (Charlie Heaton) and Sam (Matthew Stagg) – and their ailing mother arrive in the sleepy little town on America’s Northeastern seaboard where she grew up. Moving into the mother’s childhood home, the sprawling near-derelict mansion Marrowbone, the family adopt the name as their own, cutting ties with their former lives, the mother drawing a line on a dusty floor and declaring: “Our story begins here!”

The family spend an idyllic, golden Summer settling in to their new lives and befriending local librarian Allie (Anya Taylor-Joy) before tragedy strikes and their mother’s health worsens, dying just months short of Jack’s 21st birthday, the age when he can legally act as guardian to his younger siblings. Determined to protect each other and keep the family together, the children fail to report their mother’s death, pass her off as still being alive, forging her signature on legal documents in order to maintain the ruse just until Jack is of age, in the process arousing the suspicions of local lawyer Tom Porter (Kyle Soller) who is also jealous of Jack and Allie’s blossoming romance.

But a dangerous figure from the family’s past threatens their fragile safety and a restless, malevolent spirit haunts the dilapidated halls of Marrowbone…

I ruin films.

Not for you.

At least not deliberately.

No, I ruin films for me. I guess twists. I figure out secrets. I’m the guy that guessed Bruce Willis was dead the whole way through The Sixth Sense, who figured out from the first lineup who Keyser Söze was, that Rosebud was a sledge, that Nicole Kidman and her kids are ghosts in The Others, who knew, just knew, what was in the box in Se7en. I am the kryptonite to M. Night Shyamalan’s Superman.

And I ruined The Secret Of Marrowbone for me.

Handsomely shot and pedestrianly scripted by writer/director Sergio G. Sanchez who scripted Spanish Gothic horror The Orphanage, The Secret Of Marrowbone hinges on one significant twist so thumpingly obvious it dances teasingly before you long before it’s big reveal. The audience’s suspension of disbelief is vital to most supernatural movies but here belief isn’t just suspended, it’s swung from the yard arm, Sanchez employing a jarring six-month time jump and an overly complicated subterfuge to contrive the family’s isolation. To say more would ruin whatever pleasures The Secret Of Marrowbone offers.

The performances, for the most part, are good. MacKay is a sympathetic and soulful presence as the put-upon Jack, while Mia Goth and Charlie Heaton do their best to hang three-dimensional flesh on their two-dimensional roles though young Matthew Stagg is quite wonderful as the youngest Marrowbone, big-eyed and breathless as he’s stalked by half-glimpsed terrors. There’s strong support too from The Witch’s Anya Taylor-Joy whose mix of vulnerability and steel feels like an odd choice to play the local town’s sensible librarian but then, this is a film where Mia Goth play’s the nurturing, motherly eldest sister of the family so you just go with it (the aforementioned suspension of disbelief) but Kyle Soller’s hammy, pointlessly venal local lawyer and love rival feels like he should be twirling his moustache.

While Sanchez creates an atmospheric, off-kilter world (the film is set in 1969 but feels like it belongs in the Edwardian age) and makes Marrowbone, the house itself, a creaking, elegantly decaying character with its bricked-up rooms, ominous stains, and mirrors covered by sheets, his screenplay lacks depth, too concerned with keeping narrative plates spinning than with his characters and, while the film delivers the requisite mechanical jump scares, it dissolves into hysterical melodrama in the final third as the film’s many secrets are revealed, one piling on top of the other as the buried past crashes into the film’s present.

Muddled, overlong and ultimately unsatisfying, I hope I haven’t ruined The Secret Of Marrowbone too much for you.

 

Movie Review: The Secret Of Marrowbone
2.0Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)

About The Author