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Film Review: The Secret of Marrowbone

Spanish filmmaker Sergio G Sanchez is behind The Secret of Marrowbone – you might recall him from other scary spectacles like The Orphanage, so I imagine fans of that film will be looking forward to this. The basic premise seems solid enough, with a fatherless family on the run from an initially unknown trauma that sees them hiding out in Nowheresville USA in 1969. When the mother passes away, the three brothers and sister have to maintain the house and survive the best the can before the ghosts of their past threaten to envelope them forever.

Big brother Jack, played by George Mackay, is doing his best to look after his siblings, but they are always on guard and not allowed to interact with the surrounding community. Jack falls for the local librarian and is forced to deceive a local young hot shot lawyer before things start to spiral out of control. It’s nice to have a scary movie that tries to do something a bit different, usually we are subjected to franchised demons or teenage slashers in the modern horror flick, so you have to offer points for going somewhere a bit different, unfortunately as we move into the final 40 minutes, things start to look and feel a little sloppy, and despite one or two nice moments, we start to stray into some sadly familiar territory.

From the trailer, it looks like a scary supernatural mystery, complete with jump scares and half seen ghostly horrors, the truth is that the scares are often slowly revealed and kept to minimum.
Now don’t get me wrong, I hate the jumpscare approach to horror movies. It’s cheating really, and like I have said before, it’s the equivalent of someone popping a balloon in your ear from the seat behind you. Sure you jump, but it’s only for a second then you’re left feeling angry and stuid, and that’s two things an audience do not want to feel.

But here we seem to be promised more than what we actually get. Perhaps it’s the clunky way that the final revelations are presented to us that slows things down, or perhaps it’s the jarring shifts in scenes that alert the viewer to a product that often feels slightly half baked, but there’s a sense that the screenplay is a little unsure of itself, and that feeling made me start to second guess what was happening, and that’s when I stopped enjoying the actual story.

I know my readers out there are pretty on the ball, so I won’t be surprised to hear that a few of you get to the final reel without a solid stab at the outcome. If, like me, you are well versed in this kind of horror story, you will probably enjoy the build up but be slightly exasperated by the end. On the whole though this is a good attempt at capturing a more classic style of scary movie that you don’t see that often anymore, it’s a shame though that it telegraphs a lot of what’s to come and it does tend to cheat the audience with scenes that may not make sense in a second viewing.

If you like atmosphere and tension over blood guts and jumps, you will probably enjoy this more than some other reviewers out there. It’s much more The Others than Truth or Dare, and that’s a blessing, i just wish it had more of the substance of The Orphanage, and a bit more attention to detail.

Rating: 6 out of 10