Marrowbone is one of those movies that delivers shocks and surprises. From the outside, it looks like a period drama. But that’s only the first scene.
We are introduced to the Marrowbones- a family consisting of a mother and four children (three boys and a girl). They move into a new house, actually a manor, and as they enter, the mother tells them one simple thing- the minute they cross the threshold, they leave the past behind.
Immediately we are made curious as to what this seemingly ordinary family must have gone through. What exactly was the mother alluding to? Never a dull moment, the scene shifts to the introduction of Allie, a very important character in the movie as we find out later. Afterward, we are shown the mother to be on her deathbed, leaving her children with only a letter detailing the roles they must undertake.
Jack, the eldest, makes a pact with his siblings that nothing will ever separate them. In the next scene, the mother is buried. Jane is in the mother’s room arranging flowers when a shot flies out the window. She gazes out and sees a man with a gun.
Cut to six months later, and the mystery of the man with the gun is unsolved and vexing. Yes, it is a glorious tactic to leave the viewer curious but it only ends up frustrating us. Why leave such a turning point in the mundane lives of the Marrowbones in such an abrupt manner?
Before we are allowed to ponder, we are made to care for the family who is doing whatever it takes to stay together. Jack isn’t twenty-one yet and therefore cannot assume responsibility for his siblings.
The others go about their daily chores and you can see something is amiss. There is a major twist coming up. You can sense it by the way the mirror is always covered and that the ceiling appears to have an ugly splotch on it that keeps appearing.
Now that I know how it ends, I can see how a major hint was thrown in from the very beginning- None of the characters are shown with each other doing different things.
If Jane, the sister, is baking, we are not shown any of the others helping her out. If Billy offers to go get a mysterious metal box from outside, none of the others accompany him.
What is in the box? Money. Why is it there and how did they know it was not only money but blood money?
Occasionally, a thumping noise is heard from the attic. When that happens, the siblings rush off to a fort they made out of cloth and play loud music to distract themselves. There are also dolls that are made to look like them- another hint. Now, why would they make dolls that resemble them? Are they voodoo? Was it customary at that time to play with dolls that look like you? It was a creepy addition to this tale.
Allie only meets Jack whenever he goes out to sell cakes. She hasn’t met his family in months. The other siblings complain about having to stay trapped inside the house- another major clue!
Things start to get worse when Jack’s rival Tom not only makes a move on his girlfriend Allie but also guesses that something seems off about the Marrowbones. Because here’s another major clue- he has only ever met Jack.
Allie is given a book called ‘Four Storys’ that details the events of what happened to the Marrowbones. Turns out the man with the gun was the father who was turned in by Jack to the authorities because not only was he a fraud but was also abusing Jane. However, the father escapes and is out for revenge.
Jack tries to help his siblings and ends up falling off a ledge and hits his head. At this point, I thought that all of them were ghosts. I was only ¾ right. The father goes up to the house, finds the attic door locked where his three kids are unarmed and scared. He wastes no time in getting up on the roof and climbing down.
At this point, we are not shown what happens, but Jack awakens and rushes to the house. Without opening the door, he realizes what must have happened when he doesn’t hear a response from his siblings.
So Jack ‘loses’ it. Unable to take the trauma, he does one smart thing- and that is to block the door with bricks so that it can never open. He blocks the chimney as well. The father is trapped inside but survives on the meat from raccoon and rats that scurry in through the holes.
Jack is about to kill himself as well, but his mind has snapped and he enters the fort to find his siblings sleeping. When he goes down the staircase and sees the mirror, he can only see his reflection. Not wanting to bear the truth revealed by the mirror, he cracks it, covers it and removes all mirrors from the rooms.
Allie rushes to Jack who is still living in his delusions and terrified by the thumping in the attic. Jack pushes her away and she runs upstairs to find Tom whose things she had seen downstairs.
Tom is barely holding on with his throat slit. Allie realizes she’s not alone and calls for Jack’s help. Hearing her, and supported by his love for her, he gathers up his strength, picks up the gun and goes into the attic and shoots his father.
It seemed that was all that was needed for Jack to realize he needed help and that he was suffering gravely from multiple personality disorder.
Allie does get him help and devotes her life to helping him get better. Jack is trying too, though he is still fixated on seeing his siblings happy.
This was a thrilling watch and it held my interest throughout. The twists were well crafted and the characters compelling. A delightful watch if you like ‘twist in the tale’ movies.
Scare scale: 2/5