"What's in the selection box?"
by Dorothy Billing for remotegoat on 20/07/18

With a title like that this has got to be intriguing, and from the outset it looks set to be a grand Gothic chiller/ ghost story with the key ingredients being, a haunted house,
a mysterious loft, mirrors which are gathering dust as they can't be looked at, and of course a family with a strange history.

It's 1969, Rose and her four children move to America from England, to the home where she lived as a child. It's a rambling old place with looming corridors and dark places, but still, it's a fresh start for the family and Rose decides that they should all take the name of the house, " Marrowbone" as their new surname. What could they be hiding? Life is happier for them all, and the children make a new friend, Allie, but sadly, their new beginning is tinged with sadness when Rose passes away. She leaves a poignant letter for them all, imploring her eldest son Jack to keep her death a secret until he reaches the age of 21, so that the family can all stay together.

This is a movie that is visually very appealing, it's the minor details which catch your eye, and you'd be forgiven for thinking that you're watching a period drama, rather than a ghost story. The shocks and thrills are well paced and used sparingly, so it's a suspenseful experience throughout, and the casting is very good. Jack, played by George Mackay definitely steps up to his role as the troubled eldest son who struggles to keep the family intact, and Mia Goth is also authentic as his sister Jane. They're joined by Charlie Heaton as Billy and Matthew Stagg, who is excellent as 5 year old Sam.

But while the plot is promising enough in its initial premise, you do have a sneaking suspicion that this is a movie which is somewhat undecided, story wise, in where it wants to go. At first glance it presents itself as a traditional and hearty Gothic tale, but further along it has the feel of a disturbing and more sinister psychological thriller, as, bar the occasional creak, and scary mirror sighting, there isn't too much happening within the former category. Jack has increasingly disturbing blackouts, and you are aware of his internal pressures, while Sam is troubled by strange sounds from the loft. To make matters even more confusing, there's also a ghost that's supposedly hiding in the house somewhere, but one which has decided to take a break for a few months, presumably to recharge its batteries. There are other inconsistencies too, like the estranged father who has been missing for many years but who, according to the Marrowbone children, was conveniently dealt with a long time ago, and now no longer exists.

That said, it's nevertheless a beautifully shot movie and still a good watch, with a passing nod to movies like "The Others". It also has a comfortable run time of 110 minutes which is just enough to keep your attention, and there's an unexpected twist at the end!

"The Secret of Marrowbone" is directed by Sergio G Sanchez, first shown at the Toronto International Film Festival ( September 2017) and released a month later in Spain.

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