Marrowbone (2018) Blu-ray Review: A Cure for Insomnia

A talented young cast and impressive production pieces can't save this meandering debut from Sergio G. Sánchez.
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Based on its trailer, its look, and the fact that it has Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Split) and Mia Goth (A Cure for Wellness), one could easily mistake Sergio G. Sánchez’s directorial debut, Marrowbone, for a horror movie. And while there are certainly horror elements that appear throughout, Marrowbone plays more like a drama about a family trying to stick together than it does a terrifying, haunted-house thrill ride. It’s especially frustrating because there are moments within the movie where Sanchez implements the tacky jump scare method and then retreats to focus on the issues the family faces - which occupy the film more than expected.

Not that I was wishing Marrowbone had a scare during every passing minute, but I was hoping that whatever attempts it made were actually effective. Or, at least, Sanchez could make the audience feel tense during the movie. But, for most of the run time, the viewer is kept at a distance. We are introduced to so many characters, and yet, we feel nothing. We are introduced to said characters as they are going through an awful situation, and yet, there’s never a moment in which it feels like we should care. And then, to keep our interest, there’s something lurking in the old house they just moved into. Because, why not?

Marrowbone is a period piece, taking place in 1969, and Xavi Gimènez’s cinematography exquisitely captures the time in which it is set quite well. The colors are accurately dark and eerie looking, capturing the mood for an old-fashioned horror film quite well. It’s a shame the rest of the movie doesn’t keep up with it.

A woman named Rose (Nicola Harrison) takes her four children to her childhood home, which is called the Marrowbone House. It’s here that she plans on starting a new life, and she and her children will from here on out have the same last name as the house in which they now reside.

We’re given little hints here and there about what happened and why Rose and her children had to relocate. It appears that she and the kids were escaping an abusive husband. There are numerous times in which their past and the abusive husband is brought up to remind us why they are in their current situation, just in case we forget.

Unfortunately, Rose’s health takes a major decline, and she ends up passing away. Before her untimely death, she left her eldest son, Jack (George MacKay), in charge of keeping everyone together. One problem, though. Jack is not yet 21, and, therefore, he cannot legally take care of his siblings. So, he has to keep his mother’s death a secret. That’s not as easy as it seems, when an unexpected visitor shows up and threatens the family. In addition, there’s a lawyer who starts wanting to get into the family’s business when it comes to making the transfer of the house to Rose final. And, also, the house in which they live is slowly deteriorating, and there just might be a ghost lurking around inside.

Marrowbone slowly flat lines after the tense opening sequence. Despite some sparks of hope throughout, the movie is too focused on the drama surrounding the family and then remembers that it also wants to be a horror film at the same time. It’s not effective in either department. The dramatic elements are formulaic and not engaging, while the horror elements are your typical jump scares. There’s never a moment where the viewer feels real fear as this family comes closer and closer to finding the ghost that lives in their house.

The Blu-ray for Marrowbone comes with a 1080p High Definition 16x9 presentation and a 2:40.1 aspect ratio. The sound is in Dolby Atmos format, and there are subtitles for both English and Spanish. The special features are minimal, but come with more than your average, non-collector’s edition Blu-ray release. The deleted and extended scenes last for about 30 minutes, with one of them being an impressive tracking shot that got cut. I was kind of hoping it had made it into the final film. There is also a behind-the-scenes look at Marrowbone that runs for nearly 30 minutes, with exclusive interviews from those involved with the movie. Aside from the film's trailer and other trailers attached to the release, the shortest feature is a visual-effects reel that shows what the setup looked like before and after the rendering process. It’s brief, but also pretty neat to look at, especially for those interested in how effects work.

I can’t say Marrowbone is truly terrible. It’s just not interesting. A lot of the dialogue comes across as flat and mostly expository, leaving us with hollow characters and moments that don’t click like they should. It’s not exactly a horror film, and it’s not exactly a drama. It’s kind of its own thing, but not in a good way like it should be. 

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