Thursday, April 19, 2018


Spoilers are marked and saved for the end.

It's 1969, and an English family -- a mother and four children -- come to a quaint American town and change their name to Marrowbone. They appear to be hiding from someone. When the mother dies of illness, her oldest, Jack (George MacKay), is not yet old enough to inherit the house, so he, Billy (Charlie Heaton), Jane (Mia Goth) and Sam (Matthew Stagg) must hide their mother's death from the world until his 21st birthday -- even from Jack's girlfriend Allie (Anya Taylor-Joy). But more sinister trouble is stalking them than questioning townsfolk.

For someone who doesn't like horror I do sure subject myself to it a lot. I need to understand it!

Not to turn this post completely into musings on my personal preferences of horror sub-groups, but it is curious to me, as someone who claims distaste for the genre in general, and yet many of my favorite films are horror movies. I don't know how to define the difference between categories of horror I do like and ones I don't. It's not about the specific elements that makes up the film, as I would say this one was well made, yet overall, I was left with a bad taste.

A Quiet Place made me feel more on edge, yet I loved it more. IT was equally as distressing and disturbing, yet I loved it more. Psycho has a mentally sick twist to it that, if not absolutely lovable in the same sense, is pivotal to making the film the masterpiece it is. Even this year's The Ritual had creepy supernatural horror that was scary but totally enjoyable. I suppose in order for a horror story to work for me, it needs to be good and have some meaning to latch on to -- otherwise it's not worth it. Marrowbone is competently made on the surface, but failed to give its meaning any real meaning.

It does have some very sweet moments in it, and those I enjoyed most. 

This is one of those movies where you know there will be a twist to it, because things aren't adding up as they should be. Obviously, the idea was conceived as the twist and then filled in from there. Once the twist reveals, everything makes sense that seemed odd or like mistakes at first. And while the twist worked on me, and I presume evoked the right emotions, it seemed to make everything else the movie set up moot. Not that it set up deep themes or super involving characters arcs, but I got pretty invested in the basics: family, survival, good vs. evil.

The twist worked logistically but not thematically, when the reverse would have been preferable. In great twist movies, isn't it the twist that amplifies and then resolves the theme? Here it just muddied everything, and beyond giving the audience a nice disturbing shock, was pointless. The way it ended seemed to imply a theme was intended to survive the twist -- love and family was still present, but in a weird way; as if in appeasement to those of us who might be disappointed. The same path without such reserve might've had better impact. If it ended on a bold note, instead going bold and then backing down.

Maybe I should have tried to guess the twist. I always just let myself go for the ride. 

Besides one plot hole it all makes sense logistically, as I said, with some thoughtful details thrown in. And it has plenty of commendable aspects on the technical side. A nice look, for starters, with great locations and filming that was unobtrusive and lovely, with the proper edge for scares and suspense. The acting was convincing all-around. If nothing else, this movie gave me the opportunity to hear Charlie Heaton's British accent. George MacKay carried the movie excellently, and Anya Taylor-Joy was good, though this is the first film I've seen her in, and I imagine she's better elsewhere.

It's just not my kind of movie. But -- though I'm not well-versed in the type, I'd venture to say it's not as well-made as it first appears to be. It was made to make sense. At the end, I understood absolutely everything -- except how I was meant to feel. I've figured out what theme was meagerly intended, and as with the rest of the film, I understand it; but it evokes no feeling other than disappointment and distaste.


Cover your ears, kids -- it's Spoiler Time!

(Spoilers -- from here to the end!) 
Okay, I have to add this spoiler section because of how striking this realization is to me. Giant spoiler right here, last chance: In this movie, all of Jack's siblings are dead, and it's more or less his fault, though he was trying to protect them. He has multiple personality disorder (classic), and thinks they are still alive, and even after treatment at the end of the film he still sees them. It's supposed to be happy (the movie's tagline is, "no one will ever separate us") but, um, they're dead.

This, in contrast with the last horror film I watched, A Quiet Place, is pretty astounding, because the family theme is the same, but polar opposites. (Additional Spoilers for A Quiet Place now. You've been warned.) Both film's climaxes happen at death; one, in the realization of it from failure of the protagonist's part, and the other as self-sacrifice for the success of the protagonist's goal. In the latter, it completes the theme of the film; in the former, it ruins it.

Now, ruining it is fine, because it's a horror story. Bad endings are fine, especially in a twist. If the twist is necessary, then the way to end the movie is in that hard, heartbreaking realization, not some scrounged-together happy ending. It doesn't matter that they're "alive in his mind." He failed them. It feels completely disingenuous to be told to be happy while I'm still reeling from the tragedy. Jack was a sympathetic character, and I wouldn't blame him necessarily for the deaths, but I definitely don't want to see him happy and the end of such a terrible story -- commit to the darkness, or get out.

All that to say, don't watch Marrowbone, watch A Quiet Place!

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