As long as there have been horror films, there have been films about haunted houses, dating back to classic fare like “The Old Dark House,” “The Haunting,” and “House on Haunted Hill” to more contemporary selections like “The Others” and “The Grudge.” Like any horror film, it’s a subgenre that’s rather hard to pull off, mainly due to the fact that it’s hard to come up with anything original to do with it, but that certainly hasn’t stopped filmmakers from trying to make their mark by using the classic setup. The latest to do so is screenwriter Sergio G. Sanchez, who is no stranger to haunted house flicks, having given us the intriguing “The Orphanage” back in 2007. Will he be able to deliver the goods again with “Marrowbone,” or will this haunted house wind up being an empty endeavor?
An English family, consisting of a mother (Nicola Harrison) and her four children: Jack (George MacKay), Billy (Charlie Heaton), Jane (Mia Goth), and Sam (Matthew Stagg), move to the states to escape their dark past. Tragically, the mother falls sick and passes away shortly after, leaving the children to fend for themselves, and forcing them to use a bit of trickery when it comes to claiming the house they now live in. Despite their promise to be careful about going out only when necessary, Jack strikes up a relationship with a local, Allie (Anya Taylor-Joy), and soon finds himself the target of a jealous lawyer, Porter (Kyle Sorter), who handled the paperwork for their house. As the relationship progresses, the dark events of the family’s past are uncovered, leading to the realization that the children are not exactly alone in their old, dark abode.
“Marrowbone” sets itself up as a kind of dramatic haunted house mystery that slowly unveils itself over the course of its two-hour runtime. You start off by rooting for the kids to pull off their deception, before wondering just what it is that got them to this point in the first place (i.e. what terrible things happened that made them flee to the states in the first place). The mystery isn’t really that bad, as it at least has you hanging on and guessing for a good portion of the film, and the excellent production design of the creepy old house is well-suited to the dark tale that Sanchez wants to tell, but it’s a different matter when it comes to the resolution and the details that the film wants you to believe.
Eventually the film comes down to a pretty big reveal that asks you to have an equally large suspension of disbelief, for to buy into it, you have to overlook some rather gaping holes in the story that would have prevented the ending from playing out as it does. This is not to mention that the story itself is rather choppy when it comes to the timeline, and extremely silly when it comes to another important reveal that didn’t logically fit into the story given what we’d seen before. All this is to say that there are flaws in its execution, with it appearing as though Sanchez just didn’t know how to bring this mystery to a satisfactory close.
Overall, “Marrowbone” is not really a bad film. There’s a talented cast at work here, including George MacKay (“Captain Fantastic”), Anya Taylor-Joy (“The Witch”), and Charlie Heaton (“Stranger Things”), and, as mentioned, the production design is top-notch, lending quite a bit to the impressive atmosphere. However, it really needed to lose at least one portion of its gimmicky ending (which was only added for more dramatic effect), while the other portion needed to be reworked so that it was a little more logical. There’s nearly three-quarters of a decent film here, but unfortunately, it just ends up being another example of how vitally important it is to get the ending right, for sometimes it makes all the difference in the world.
“Marrowbone” comes to Blu-ray in a 2.40:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of outstanding quality. Every frame is perfectly sharp and clear, highlighting the house’s creepy production design, as well as the other exceptional locations. The Dolby Atmos Audio is extremely soft, so quite a significant volume adjustment is necessary to hear the dialogue, but once corrected, it’s a serviceable track that gets the job done. Overall, while the audio could have been slightly better, the release balances out to having received decent treatment that should leave horror fans satisfied.
Deleted/Extended Scenes (30 Minutes): A selection of deleted material that reveals that a significant amount of the film was trimmed.
Behind the Scenes (29 Minutes): An interesting look at the making of the film, featuring lots of behind the scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew.
Visual Effects Reel (2 Minutes): A brief look at the visual effects used throughout the film.
“Marrowbone” contains an intriguing mystery, as well as a talented cast and impeccable production design, but is ultimately derailed by a gimmicky and illogical ending. Writer/director Sergio G. Sanchez had the makings of a good film here, and indeed most of it works in terms of the mystery and atmosphere, but when it came to wrapping it up in a satisfactory manner, he sadly wasn’t quite up to the challenge.