[Review] The Secret of the Marrowbones: The horror film of the beginning of the year?


Writer alongside Juan Antonio Bayona for L’Orphelinat and The Impossible, Sergio G. Sanchez this time goes behind the camera. A very encouraging first attempt.

The horror film is far from being exclusive to a single country. While the United States and Asia largely dominate production, other film nations stand out from time to time. We recently spoke with you about French horror, but Spain is definitely one of them.

Since the early 2000s, young Spanish shoots have managed to give the genre a real boost. Even more than in France, directors like Alejandro Amenabar, Jaume Balaguero or Jaume Collet-Serra have been able to reappropriate the codes of fear inherited from the USA, while infusing them with an Iberian touch.

Even shot in English, these feature films retain a particular style, where the economy of means is the main source of anxiety. The Secret of the Marrowbones fits perfectly into this lineage.

When their mother dies, Jack and his siblings decide to hide the news so they can stay together. The latter raising them alone, he finds himself isolated in the family home. But strange events indicate that a foreign presence haunts the walls of the house.

And the light was (no longer)
Anxious to meet the high standards of his previous collaborators, Sanchez demonstrates a real mastery of directing. Shot in Asturias, his film nevertheless displays British Gothic overtones. The soft exterior light seems to stop dead in the footsteps of the house, and only shines through the windows on the first floor. The more the story leads us to the attic, where the strange noises come from, the rarer the latter becomes.

Sanchez thus plays with the chiaroscuro of candles and oil lamps to compose striking paintings. Under the good reflections, a simple sheet turns into a threat behind his camera. His aesthetic vision instills a latent angst in the story, which therefore does not need to use the jumpscares inherent in this kind of production.

He can count on an actor patchwork that displays a beautiful symbiosis on the screen. George McKay thus shows a real self-confidence as the head of the self-proclaimed family. Her frail build goes well with the diaphanous beauty of Mia Goth, which evokes Sissy Spacek or Shelley Duvall, confirming that she is definitely the perfect choice for fantastic universes ( A Cure for Life , 2017). Discovered in Stranger Things , Charlie Heaton is ultimately little used, but delivers an interesting performance.

Hell is other people ?
Paradoxically, his desire to demonstrate his technical know-how takes precedence over writing. This has the effect of splitting the film in two. Visibly inspired by the scriptwriting pirouettes of Shyamalan, the latter initiates a revelation that is supposed to give him another reading.

Against a backdrop of family drama and altered reality, Sanchez ends up reassembling the script elements scattered throughout the film. However, this final comes a little late, which has the effect of altering the surprise.

It is all the more unfortunate that he ogles a little too much on the narrative structure of the Others of Amenabar. Although expected, he weaves a rather clever metaphor for how children crystallize their parents’ anguish in them. Which is already quite rare for the genre.