14th Aug2018

‘The Secret of Marrowbone’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: George MacKay, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Mia Goth, Matthew Stagg, Nicola Harrison, Kyle Soller, Tom Fisher, Myra Kathryn Pearse, Paul Jesson, Robert Nairne | Written and Directed by Sergio G. Sanchez


Three brothers and a sister have just lost their mother. After her death they fear to be separated, so to protect themselves and prevent this from happening they decide to flee to an abandoned farm, a place that is not what it seems, because it hides a dark secret between its walls.

Sergio G. Sanchez’s The Secret of Marrowbone comprises a fusion of Alejandro Amenabar’s The Others and Alfred Hitchcock’s famed masterpiece Psycho, not necessarily in the context of plot points but clearly influenced the formation of a deeply expressive style of subtlety. While not a complex piece of intricacy in the realm of the horror genre, it has its moments of slight terror and peril, yet any viewer wanting to seek out the horror-esque film that the trailers propose this to be, will undoubtedly be left with a significant dent in their expectations of the material they anticipated.

Stylised in a mass-marketed campaign of the next terrifying haunted house monster feature, alas, ironically could be anything further from the truth. The film itself showcases very little of these genre conventions in what should be more appropriately sold as a thriller, more than anything else, evoking a far more dramatic edge than classic tropes a horror film would detail. The crux of this issue is two-fold. Firstly, the deceptive marketing is, sadly, going to deeply influence both reviews and word of mouth negatively, therefore relating to decreasing box office results, which brings me to the following point. Secondly, The Secret of Marrowbone is a competently made thriller with an elegant grace concerning both the production design from Patrick Salvador and the standard of filmmaking present from behind the camera. An aspect of the film that with the previous point mentioned, is sadly going to go unnoticed.

The cinematography from Xavi Gimenez is a prime example of stellar filmmaking. Along with the work from Salvador, it evokes such a sense of gloom and dour but has underneath blossom of colour and greens, clearly to present the themes of the picture itself. The mixture between glow and solemn in the picture itself effectively influences and mirrors the events of the film superbly. It doesn’t inform terror but subconsciously invites its audience in with a welcoming aesthetic, only for it to contextually crumble in front of their eyes.

Performances from the British cast are relatively good. Anna-Taylor Joy hot off the presses with now a multitude of numerous horror films such as Split and The Witch under her belt knows how to pick the more implicating horror themes rather than the all-out slasher fest. It wouldn’t be far from the truth to suggest that she more than likely is a fan of the genre and her performances reflect that quite clearly. She has little to work with here if not creating a character from thin air with very little actually on the page to create from and to her credit, she just about manages to make things work. As does the core family dynamic itself with George MacKay, Charlie Heaton, Mia Goth and Matthew Stagg. It’s warm, real and compact with the issues and animosity every family ultimately goes through. Performed to a standard very reflective of the relatively fresh performers on hand.

Certain delivery of dialogue more often than not leaves something to be desired, perhaps a little too wordy and clunky, in a script that shouldn’t be at all difficult to enlighten, but ultimately suffices. Plot holes, however, are constant and problematic, to say the least. It doesn’t derail the entire picture, thankfully, but the line between believability and puzzling moments is a constant rocky ride of liberties taken for entertainment purposes solely.


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