“The Secret of Marrowbone” slowly builds to a suspenseful ending for this edge of your seat Gothic horror film.  

the secret of marrowbone

Written and directed by Sergio G. Sánchez, The Secret of Marrowbone stars George MacKay as Jack, the oldest of four children who is responsible for the care of his family. The children follow their mother from London to the US to old family home with its worn paint and creaky floorboards. As they enter the home for the first time, they cross a symbolic line to forget the past traumas and make a life in this new house. That new happy life doesn’t last long as their mother soon succumbs to an illness. On his mother’s deathbed, Jack promises to keep the family safe and together, which goes well until one day when a strange visitor with a gun arrives. The movie then jumps forward not revealing the outcome of that encounter.

We find the family living in secrecy with Jack the only one who occasionally leaves the home for food, and to meet with a neighbor girl Allie (Anya Taylor-Joy) who has the heart of both Jack and rival love interest Porter (Kyle Soller). Other than that, the family stays home, waiting for Jack to turn 21 and to legally be able to care for his siblings.

Taking place in 1969, the movie starts off as your typical haunted house story. There are creaks in the attic, the mirrors have all been covered up for some reason, and the youngest of the children, Sam (Matthew Staggin), is convinced he is seeing ghosts. We know that something is wrong in this house and through the film we learn more about what happened that day when the visitor with the gun arrived.

Sergio G. Sánchez does a brilliant job of building suspense in The Secret of Marrowbone by relying on story, performances, and sound design, leading the audience to where we expect to be lead, then changing directions on us. Sánchez takes us out of the dark jump scare riddled horror film to a daylight laden character-driven story that builds to a suspenseful and worthwhile payoff.

“The Secret of Marrowbone” opens Friday the 13th of July.

Review by Milo Denison, the author of “How to Manage Your Manager” available now.