Marrowbone Explained: The Secrets Behind the Haunted House - VRGyani News and Media

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Sunday, August 15, 2021

Marrowbone Explained: The Secrets Behind the Haunted House

Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Marrowbone.

Nothing screams classic haunted house like an eerie, abandoned mansion or a secluded, rickety country home. The floorboards creak, the basement’s dark and full of secrets, and the ghost unveils themself hunched in a corner or over someone’s bedside.

Many films have transformed the comfortable, safe perception of the home into grueling sites of demon-provoked massacres (The Amityville Horror), stalkings (Insidious), or straight-up possessions (The Conjuring). There’s no shortage of scary movies that do justice to that old age fear of one’s sanctuary being corrupted by the supernatural, and many contemporary, fast-paced titles like Lights Out throw the evil presence right in your face from minute one.

However, writer/director Sergio G. Sánchez takes a step back to add a slower approach to the haunted house film Marrowbone. It feels like a drama but executes a heightened, creepy level of disorientation as the central protagonist, Jack Marrowbone (George MacKay), and his three siblings guide audiences down a rabbit hole of mystery, trauma, and tragedy.

RELATED: 'Marrowbone’: First Trailer Gets to the Heart of Sergio G. Sánchez's Horror Movie

The movie follows the Marrowbone family as they leave England in a rush, settling for life in a seaside, rural Maine community where their single mother Rose (Nicola Harrison) grew up 30 years prior. A massive old house, just aching to be filled up, becomes their new home as Rose and her children Jack, Jane (Mia Goth), Billy (Charlie Heaton), and Sam (Matthew Stagg) adjust to low-key life.

There’s an eerie beauty to the Marrowbone family’s new ventures that lures you into a forgotten daydream, a leisurely pace surrounding their newfound happiness. But the daydream dissolves when Rose becomes terminally ill, dying in the presence of her children. A “ghost” lurks amongst the Marrowbone estate following Rose’s death, with Jack as head of household maintaining normalcy in the public eye of bank collectors, child services, and Jack’s new love, librarian worker Allie (Anya Taylor-Joy). Jack eases his siblings’ fears whenever the “ghost” makes his presence felt.

But tension rises between the children about what living their lives in secrecy has done to their relationships with each other, and jealousy brews as Jack finally finds comfort in living a life that his siblings can’t. The pressure compounds and it’s revealed that the “ghost” is the Marrowbone children’s abusive serial killer father who followed them from England for stolen money and vengeance. He ultimately murders Jack’s younger siblings, leaving him paralyzed in time and forcing him into a psychotic break, developing a multiple personality disorder with his murdered siblings Jane, Billy, and Sam as each of the different personas.

Sánchez adopts the slow-burn technique throughout the film with his concept of character. The Marrowbones appear as a regular family looking for a change and some new hope. There’s nothing particularly bedazzling about these characters until their secrecy and reclusive nature draws attention. Their depths and desires aren’t truly unveiled until halfway through the movie. Sánchez provides a distraction from seemingly ordinary people with intricate details of the home, the landscape of seaside Maine, and the art of storytelling within Jack’s story. Jack chronicles his trauma in a family storybook, and in moments of terror, he subdues his siblings' fears with stories as well. Sánchez forces audiences to trace along the painstaking revisitation of manic alienation with each page and tale that Jack recounts.

Drab greenery, musty candlelight yellows, and ebony hues illuminate the large estate and consume every moment the “ghost” inched closer to tearing the Marrowbones apart. Visually it allures viewers, setting the tone for an intermediate between hazy, magical realism and a visceral, gruesome past that manifests in the walls and mirrors of the home. Unlike many haunted house movies (Sinister, The Messengers) where the physical home serves only as props to violence and action, the Marrowbone estate moors itself into the fabric of the family — one could say, bone-deep. Initially, the house appears frozen in time, and this illusion directly affects the Marrowbone kids as they escape reality with adventures and otherworldly acts of heroism on the shores and in the fairy gardens of the property.

Jack becomes one with the estate: gardening, buying supplies, keeping up with the lives of his dead siblings at home, and upkeeping appearances with the town locals, especially Allie. Normalcy is key to stretching out the mystery and keeping the “ghost” at bay. This introspection into Jack’s solitary lifestyle never leaves room to imagine that his loneliness included such tremendous shock and sorrow. In many horrors, there’s either an attack of the senses, a jump scare, or a stark image of gore and blood to symbolize one’s psychological hauntings. But anxious energy exudes within each recollection of Jack’s fatal choices enacted in the name of family and heroism. The horror lies in the truth; Jack feels failure to Rose and the untenable grief leaves Jack just as empty as his home.

In his agony, Jack manifested emotional detachment from his reality, and the house physically internalized that grief, as any house can. It collects memories, harbors secrets, gives space for clarity and healing, but also collects suffering and anguish that in turn can leave the physical home in literal shambles or disarray. Sánchez constantly revisits this notion of a house as more than a home in Jack’s tenderness with family items, avoidance of the sealed-up attic, and the “ghost's” aggressive intrusions within the walls and secret rooms of the home. Over time, the home acts as a living being that contains every aspect of Jack’s hopes for peace alongside the reimagination of his siblings in his personality disorder. The neglect of the attic, the maintenance of Rose’s deathbed and possessions, the hiding of the “ghost’s” stolen money, the bare minimum upkeep of the outskirts of the property — these are just some examples of the house enduring this transformation of time that’s directly in tune to Jack’s mental awareness, or lack thereof.

Moving in rhythm with Jack’s anxiety, stress, isolation, trauma, and emptiness, the house crumbles with each haunting incident, and this madness lingers to almost the very end. Sánchez offers up a disorienting reality where the trauma and abuse of the kids’ murderous father conflated into a deteriorating home and a mentally broken Jack. Tied to his home, just like Jane virtuously believed, Jack will never leave.

KEEP READING: ‘Marrowbone’: George MacKay and Director Sergio G. Sánchez on the Unique, Dark Fairytale



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