Updated: Aug 10, 2018
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD; 2017; R for some violence; streaming via Amazon Video, iTunes, Vudu (4K), YouTube
Best extra: “Behind the Scenes” making-of
THINK smart Stephen King adaptations with their solidly bonded characters like “Stand by Me” or “Dolores Claiborne.” Better yet, Guillermo del Toro and his provocative thriller fantasies: “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “The Shape of Water.” “Marrowbone,” a creepy ghost story set in 1969 Maine evokes them all yet stands on its own.
Rose Fairbairns (Nicola Harrison) escapes an unimaginable situation in England with her four children: Jack, 20, played by George MacKay, teens Jane (Mia Goth) and Billy (Charlie Heaton, “Stranger Things”) and five-year-old Sam (Matthew Stagg). She’s returned to her home of Marrowbone, now an abandoned, broken down farm, to start a new life. “We’re no longer Fairbairns,” she tells her children. “From now on, our last name will be Marrowborne just like this house which will be our new home. Once you cross that line, there’ll be no memories. Our story begins here.”
One by one, the kids step over the line she’s drawn in the dust on the floor, suspicious but willing to leave their former lives behind. First thought: There’s gotta be a bad Dad involved, but the issues seem bigger than that – only part of the mystery of “Marrowbone,” formerly titled “The Secret of Marrowbone” from writer/director Sergio G. Sánchez.
This is Spanish-born Sánchez’s first time in the feature-length director’s chair. He also wrote “The Orphanage,” a moody 2007 ghost story about an orphan, now grown and married with an adopted child of her own She returns to her former home to establish a refuge for children with special needs. Things don’t go as planned.
Nothing goes as planned for the Marrowbone children either. Drained by her experiences, Rose dies during an otherwise idyllic summer. She charges Jack to look after his brothers and sister: “Bury me in the garden ... You just have to turn 21. Stay hidden until then or the law will take them from you.”
Jack promises that he, Jane, Billy and Sam will stay together. Always. Naturally, events take place meant to drive the siblings apart. That’s where the thrills and chills set in. To say more risks spoiling a terrific film.
The cast also includes Anya Taylor-Joy of “The Witch” (2015), “Split” (2016) and the upcoming “Glass,” and Kyle Soller of “Fury” and “Poldark.”
“Marrowbone” is the first 4K Ultra HD from Magnolia Home Entertainment – and it looks fantastic, seemly sourced from a 4K master. The Blu-ray presentation is also state of the art, just how we like it. Filmed in Spain, it was shot in real settings; very little CGI was used. “It was important to me to film in a real house, not on a set with the windows masked. It was important for the house to breathe, to creak,” Sánchez says in the behind-scenes making-of, one of three good bonus features on Magnolia’s presentation.
He reveals how the grounds were re-landscaped six months before filming. Sánchez wanted the house to look deserted. “I wanted the kind of garden that isn’t a garden anymore, that’s almost a jungle,” he says. “It makes you wonder whether anyone lives there.”
Color is lifelike from complexions to locations. HDR toning boosts the picture to a photo-real experience. Many scenes are naturally lit, while house interiors use a mix of streaming sunlight, and oil or candle light. The rural setting with its golden fields and green woods, beach, rustic town and roads look serene and friendly, although the house becomes swamped with shadows. That’s where the secrets lay. Production Designer Patrick Salvador’s sets are lavishly detailed. The sibling’s rooms are filled with items showing what each one is like; the kitchen, sunroom and other areas – a town library, a grocery – are filled with an assortment of period accurate and antique odds and bobs.
Black levels are solid, revealing half-hidden objects such as shrouded mirrors, toy soldiers and bricked walls. A water-color picture book showing the family’s journey from England to their new home is a masterpiece, lending fairytale ambiance to the children’s story.
A Dolby Atmos soundtrack defaults to Dolby TrueHD for folks without the height speakers. “Marrowbone” is an audio delight for those who have the option of ceiling effect delivery. The house is filled with movement; we get the sense there’s more than the pet raccoon rumbling around the walls and attic.
Dialogue is delivered cleanly, but there’s a good SDF subtitle option for those who want it. The orchestral score is by Fernando Velázquez of “The Orphanage,” “Crimson Peak” and “A Monster Calls.” It highlights strings – violins and cellos.
“We’re making a film with a big heart, with a lot of spirit. There’s a beautiful central theme that reflects the characters’ hopes,” he says in the making-of. The pace quickens, with minor notes showcased as suspense builds. Still, Velázquez accentuates the story; his music does not dominate.
In addition to the making-of with its creator and cast interviews and production details, there are 12 deleted and extended scenes. A “Visual Effects Reel” shows how CGI was added to create locations such as the house, showing the original shot, then altered results.
If you’ve been looking for a fresh, original thriller this is it. Horror fans rejected it for its lack of gore and jump scares. Combining mystery, romance and scares, “Marrowbone” is an undiscovered gem in its 110 minute run. The pace is unrelenting, steadily unfolding – a haunting story that’s even better the second time around.
— Kay Reynolds
4K Ultra HD disc sold exclusively at Best Buy