Tag Archives: Anya Taylor-Joy

Marrowbone (2018) Movie Review By John Walsh

Marrowbone Review

Director: Sergio G. Sánchez
Writer: Sergio G. Sánchez
Stars: George MacKay, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton

I’ve developed a bad habit of watching films recently that have been shoehorned into the horror genre for what I presume to be a money making exercise. Of course, they end up having a few scenes or elements to justify said shoehorning, but are really something else entirely. That’s exactly what has happened with Sergio G. Sánchez’s Marrowbone. It’s classed as a horror, but is really a psychological drama, with around three, mostly poor jump scares, added in to merit being considered one. 

I know Sánchez more for his writing on JA Bayona’s ‘The Orphanage’, he’s a very talented guy in that department and if there’s any gripes to be had with this film then it most definitely isn’t in the writing or the dialogue. This is his first non-foreign language, feature length film and I can only presume it had some bother getting a distribution deal, with production finishing back in 2017, it being given a simplistic name change over here and only now earning a wide theatrical release.

It’s about a young, orphaned, sibling quartet, who hide the death of their mother to stay together in her old, isolated and rather rickety looking, childhood farmhouse. Their father was a bit of an abusive, psycho and at the beginning his whereabouts are unknown. We have Jack (George MacKay), Billy (Charlie Heaton), Jane (Mia Goth) and Sam (Matthew Stagg). Jack is very much playing the role of the mature father figure and also has a blooming romance with Allie (Anya Taylor-Joy), the Marrowbones closest neighbour and the towns librarian. 

It’s a predominately slow burn affair for nearly the entirety of the running time, following the young quartet as they deal with bangs in the attic and a bizarre, OCD like, obsession with covering every mirror in the house. Sánchez frequently has the young inhabitants interact with gaping cracks in the ceiling, for telegraphed, jump scare opportunities and just to let you know, in case you hadn’t figured it out already, that there’s something sinister occupying that bricked up space. 

There’s other things at play too though, the aforementioned romance between Allie and Jack, that comes in sporadic bursts and helps to lighten the oppressive tone that permeates the family home. Then you’ve got the bank manager, Tom (Kyle Soller), nefariously sneaking around trying his best to extort the Marrowbones for a rumoured fortune and generally creeping on Allie. Tom is an oddity of a man, arguably the biggest in the film, which is some doing amongst a film peppered with neurotic oddities. Finally, you’ve got the brewing confrontation between Jack and Billy, presumably brought on by a desire to deal with the attic situation. 

Sánchez is a gifted writer as I did say and it shows here. He explores some important themes quite intelligently, whilst slowly drip feeding the audience the truth behind Jack’s hesitancy, apparent blackouts and the mysterious guest upstairs. He does this through a series of recurring flashbacks, each delving further and revealing more of the puzzle and what a tragic puzzle it’s revealed to be. The attic twist at the end caught me off guard too, I can’t deny it. 

Why? Well, because there’s never a solid indication one way or another as to whether the presence, bumping around upstairs and causing palpable apprehension is a genuine living person or a malevolent spirit, until the twist that is. I’ve seen people criticise this film, be it the storytelling or the dialogue. I’m perplexed by the whole thing. I enjoyed that sense of ambiguity surrounding the projected reality of Jack. He’s one of three characters within Marrowbone that become the audiences perspective and I thought Sánchez utilised all of them well to reveal the heartbreaking truth.

On the contrary, I found the film to be intelligently crafted, written and visually decent. I particularly liked the moment when Jack and Allie are communicating with a morse code, light system between the two houses and the wide beach shot was stunning.

It’s not going to be getting nominated come award season, because it isn’t good enough, though if it were, then George MacKay would be the most deserving. He’s a supremely talented chap and he’s amazing as the most conflicted and emotionally multilayered man in the entire film. This is a character driven film and the performances were the highlight for me. Anya Taylor Joy is another favourite of mine, I enjoyed her in the ‘The Witch’ and she was decent here too. Charlie Heaton rounded up the notable performances from me.

In the end, it’s not the best ‘horror’ film I’ve seen this year, but it has a surprisingly enjoyable story, one brillIant performance, two decent ones and it explores the important themes of grief, mental health and the dangers of locking yourself away instead of seeking help. I enjoyed the bizarre concoction of a 60s, US, period piece intermingling with the almost Shining-esque, Kubrick distortion of the surrounding, dense woodland setting that abruptly hits an improbably close, rocky shore line. I thought it was a decent, little psychological drama in the main. 

It does strike me as a potential marmite release however, in that some audience members won’t tolerate the slow burn nature and drip feed of information. I did, but I’m maybe a rarity in that case.  

Rating: 3/5

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Morgan (2016) Movie Review by Darrin Gauthier

MORGAN

Director: Luke Scott
Writer: Seth W. Owen (as Seth Owen)
Stars: Kate Mara,  Anya Taylor-Joy,  Rose Leslie

Plot: A corporate risk-management consultant must decide whether or not to terminate an artificially created humanoid being.

Running time:1 hour 32 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes score: Critics 40%   Audience 30%

Why I watched it: Mostly the cast, the trailers looked not bad and they did a good job of marketing.

Random thoughts: When the film was first being marketed they were using the tag line “What is Morgan” which was cool but then it became clear this was about a robot, or an A.I and the film became a little less interesting.  The film is directed by Ridley Scott’s son so we know at least through his father and some of the other film’s he’s worked on he would be could in the sci-fi world.

What I liked: The film opens with a bang, we see footage of some attacking another person and stabbing them in the eye.  Decent start we find out that Morgan was the “thing” who attacked one of the people who look after her and she’s now being locked up to see what can be done.

So a risk-management consultant comes to decide what should be done.  Easy parallels about being arrested and being locked up.  The age old question can robots, computers thing, can they feel, is shutting them off or unplugging them like killing them?  That part of the film is fine, we’ve seen it before but they set it up well and we get to see the team around Morgan and how they have become a family.

The film is lean at your over 90 minutes and it moves pretty well. The one thing I liked about the character of Morgan is that it’s clear she doesn’t know what she is, she’s not just a victim she is actively trying to control her own destiny.

A good performance by newcomer Anya Taylor-Joy.

What I didn’t like:This film has a lot of problems the biggest is they waste a very good cast, let’s be clear Jennifer Jason Leigh is in like three scenes and the only important thing is she’s the one who gets stabbed in the eye and basically is in bed the whole movie.

Paul Giamatti has one scene and to be kind he’s terrible, his character acts like an idiot and really it seems like Giamatti came in and said look it’s one scene I’ll just do a parody of myself and get it over with.  To say that a doctor would be this dumb is really stretching it.  Boyd Holbrook wh seems to be on the rise is wasted to the point of yeah if we cut his character out altogether it wouldn’t effect the plot.

Toby Jones and Michelle Yeoh try to bring life and a sense of character but they’re not on scene enough, the plot eats all these performances.

Kate Mara is the lead here and to be kind she’s very, very miscast, a don’t buy her at all.  She’s a decent actress but she doesn’t have the kind of presence needed for this role, she’s not badass, Emily Blunt would have been a better pick.

Now I have two main problems with this film the main one is every character who is part of the team that has created and looks after Morgan seems to love her blindly, they seem more like cult members, Morgan jumps a table and stabs someone in the eye three times, why she wasn’t allowed to go outside, now person or machine that’s a huge red flag but at least 5 characters are like no no Morgan is a good person, she’s a her not an it but we don’t see why we don’t see Morgan than anything other than a machine gone wild.

Now there’s a twist and I will say this without spoilers, I saw this 15 minutes in, it’s badly played, the fact that the film and how this is acted is a spoiler, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and if you add that Kate Mara is a risk-management consultant that carries a gun, do all of them?

I was like what is going on here. There’s also the lost point of what Morgan was made for, or what they were hoping to do with her, is she a weapon cause if she is, then stabbing people in the eye would be useful.

The film is full of half ideas that never get expanded or talked about in an intelligent way.

Final thoughts: This was never a thought provoking study about machines being human or a good old fashioned thriller about a robot gone out of control.  They had an idea and a good cast and they didn’t use either one well.

Rating: 3/10

Split (2016) Movie Review by Kevan McLaughlin

SPLIT

Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan
Stars: James McAvoy,  Anya Taylor-Joy,  Haley Lu Richardson

M. Night Shyamalan delivers his best film since Unbreakable in a tense and claustrophobic thriller with James McAvoy shining in a number of different (but equally terrifying) roles.

Outsider Casey (Taylor-Joy), attending a party none of her classmates want her at, is kidnapped along with Marcia (Sula) and Claire (Richardson) by an eerily calm and focused man who swiftly incapacitates Claire’s father, enters the car the girls are waiting in and knocks them all out before driving away.

The girls are being held captive by Kevin Wendell Crumb, a man with Dissociative Identity Disorder and who holds, in his mind, 23 distinct personalities. The personality who took the girls is Dennis, a man with violent tendencies and OCD. Noticing Dennis’ compulsion for cleanliness and order, Casey uses this to the girls’ advantage when Dennis tries to take Marcia and yells at her to pee herself, knowing that Dennis wouldn’t be able to cope with the mess  and he abandons his plans.

The girls’ first encounter with a second personality, cementing their terror as they realise the gravity of their increasingly bizarre abduction, is Patricia. Marcia and Claire spy a woman through the keyhole of the locked door conversing with Dennis and plead for the softly spoken lady to rescue them.

When Patricia enters the room they not only see that it’s the same person who abducted them, but register that Patricia and Dennis were just having a discussion on the other side of the door. The sight of a shaven-haired McAvoy dressed in heels and a skirt trying to reassure the terrified teenagers is as startling as it is awkwardly hilarious. Patricia describing Dennis by saying “he’s not well” is, perhaps, one of the most chilling moments in psychological horror history, up there with Annie Wilkes being a fangirl, Jame Gumb’s obsession with lotion and Jack Torrance struggling with dividing his time between work and recreational activities.

Kevin attends therapy with Dr. Fletcher (Buckley) who believes that people with Dissociative Identity Disorder can exhibit a multitude of physiological states as well as psychological. The personality that talks with Dr. Fletcher is Barry, an extroverted leader who controls the ‘light’ – the method in which the 23 personalities take turns to control Kevin’s body. But Dr. Fletcher is convinced that it’s not Barry she’s talking with, but Dennis. She also reveals that she’s aware that Dennis and Patricia are banished from the light because of their “beliefs”. The expelled duo have supplanted Barry in an effort to bring forth a 24th personality, the Beast.

The person who now controls who gets their time in the light is Hedwig, a nine year old boy who’s eager to please Patricia and Dennis and has taken to talking with the girls. Hedwig, like any other nine year old, can’t fully grasp the seriousness of the impending doom or the danger the girls are in.

Shyamalan has succeeded in delivering a genuinely terrifying psychological horror that, in the spirit of the Shining, also has aspects of the paranormal. The taut atmosphere conjured by a crescendo of fear and paranoia is compelling and repellent in equal measure, making for a wonderfully, thrilling ride. Alarm that Split may have entered into the murky waters of stigmatising mental health disorders by tapping into that particular genre which plays on the popular fear of unpredictability of such conditions are unfounded as this film gently moves from thriller to supernatural horror.

McAvoy is wonderful to watch as he transitions from personality to personality. His ability to portray convincing roles from wide-eyed child to obsessive sociopath, from matriarchal menace to flamboyant artist is truly exceptional. Whilst chilling, it’s also worth noting his ability for comic timing, especially as Patricia. His uncomfortably long pauses and insincere attempts to convey comfort with mock-sympathetic glances are extraordinarily hilarious and will leave audiences laughing into their popcorn.

As is the nature of Shyamalan’s films it’s impossible to delve too deeply into the plot because you know there’s going to be spoilers and twists and no one want to shatter that illusion like it’s made of glass.

An authentically scary couple of hours in a world bereft of genuine cinematic scares.

The Witch (2015) Movie Review by John Walsh

THE WITCH

Director: Robert Eggers 
Writer: Robert Eggers 
Stars: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie 

The Witch is a psychological horror from Robert Eggers who makes his directorial debut. The film focuses on William and his excommunicated family, who’ve left their puritan settlement in England behind following a religious disagreement.

He decides to move them to a farm deep within the wilderness of New England. Set in 17th century, colonial America, and acting as a predecessor to the infamous Salem witch trials that would follow. The film provides an interesting look into a more primitive time when people were literally terrified of a dark forest, often mistaking perfectly innocuous natural events for the supernatural.

The opening shots of the film show William protesting his innocence, before him and his family are banished from the plantation.

The introduction of spine tingling, eerie, violin music provides the perfect match for the gloomy landscape the family now find themselves at. The forest is literally made to feel alive with numerous slow, brooding, shots casting an uneasiness upon both the family and the viewer.

The youngest member of the family, baby Samuel, then appears to disappear under the watchful gaze of his sister. His fate heavily hinted at in the very next sequence. Said sequence showing a naked, elderly lady performing some kind of blood ritual outside in the torrential rain and under the cover of darkness.

Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), the firstborn child, tasked with watching the baby when he was taken, is fast entering her ‘womanhood’ and faces an incredibly tough time throughout. Having to balance her time with looking after her younger siblings, doing extra chores, whilst dealing with the emotional turmoil that puberty brings.

She also has the misfortune of being involved directly or indirectly with the majority of the seemingly mysterious incidents that take place. This causes her mother to cast a mistrustful eye upon her. The fear and paranoia reaches fever pitch as the crops fail and their supplies begin to run low; with accusations of satanism and witchcraft eventually being used as the explanation for the events at the farm.

This is further exacerbated by a foreboding forest that really creates a suffocating air of claustrophobic tension.

Her other brother Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), also entering puberty, is obsessed with reciting religious scriptures, punishing himself for the new found sinful thoughts that cross his mind. Desperate to aid his father in any way possible, we see him helping to lay traps and hunt animals for their pelts within the forest. The young twins, who develop an unhealthy relationship with the demonic looking goat ‘Black Phillip’, give off creepy vibes throughout and their mischievous personalities, not to mention tongue in Mercy’s case, cause no end of bother.

Katherine (Kate Dickie), the grief stricken, homesick mother seems close to a mental breakdown at any point.

She spends a sizeable proportion of the film sobbing and praying for her loss in equal measures, only taking short breaks from either when an opportunity appears to berate Thomasin. William (Ralph Inason) is the highly flawed father of the family who struggles to keep things together in the face of growing adversity. Turning to his deeply, devout faith in Christianity to help guide him through, though no help ever seems forthcoming.

Given the rather ambiguous nature in the way Eggers portrays the story, it’s never really clear whether the events taking place at the farm are indeed at the hands of a real witch per say or whether the whole thing is a paranoid figment of the family’s imagination, as they crack up from the isolation.

With the overwhelming majority of the film being seen from the perspective of Thomasin, there appears to be an equally strong case for the real witch within the story being her. As mentioned previously, she is present when every tragedy or incident takes place and given she’s seems to be the sole survivor at the end (the twins disappeared completely). It’s not a massive leap. One thing that is clear to me about this film, is the overarching themes. In my mind, it’s very much about the dangers of organised religion and female empowerment. The family literally tears itself apart with mistrust and self doubt, the patriarchal heads too obsessed with their beliefs to use logic or common sense to save themselves and their children.

Finally, Thomasin grows from being a child at the beginning to a woman at the end. At one point she almost gets sent away to be married off against her will. Even if her choice to join the coven of witches/satanists wasn’t the brightest, it was the first real time she made a decision for herself in the entire film.

Ralph Inason does a splendid job here. His gruff, Yorkshire accent, is accentuated with the traditional English dialect used throughout the film. For me, both him and Taylor-Joy were the standouts. The latter essentially carrying the film for long periods with a very impressive performance. Kate Dickie also impresses. Any fan of Game of Thrones will know that she’s able to play the neurotic motherly figure as good as anyone.

Finally Harvey Scrimshaw puts in a reasonable effort too and despite overacting slightly at certain points I thought the scenes in his sickbed after returning to the farm were impressive for such a young actor.

Visually the film was extremely well shot, the use of natural light throughout echoing that of the much lauded Revenant. Not to mention the slow shots of the woods with fog to boot adding an eeriness to the family’s small clearing of land. Jarin Blaschke did a fantastic job of really immersing the viewer into the period. The costume designs were apparently hand stitched, highly detailed and very impressive looking. Musically the string arrangements did their job.

Adding tension and suspense effectively. A special mention must be made to Eggers, the production team and writers, who went to great detail in recreating the 17th century environment, speech and feel perfectly.

Overall, it’s not your average horror flick, full of jump scares and the usual nonsense, which is probably for the best, because I’m not a fan of that anyway. It’s more psychological, focusing on the slow breakdown of the family. Do I think this is a fantastic film? Nope, I don’t. But it kept my attention from start to end and was decent enough.

I don’t give numerical scoring, but if I did then it would be a solid 6.5/10.