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Monday, June 8, 2020

Anatomy of a Scare: The Terrifying Scene from Netflix’s “Marianne” We Can’t Stop Thinking About

Everything announced so far about Lionsgate’s Cobweb checks off all the boxes of a highly anticipated horror movie on the horizon. For starters, the script by Chris Thomas Devlin ranked at the top of 2018’s Bloodlist, an annual list of the year’s best unproduced genre features voted on by industry executives. Prolific producers like Roy Lee (ItDoctor Sleep), Jon Berg (Wonder Woman, Doctor Sleep), and Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg (This is the End, “The Boys”, “Preacher”) are attached. Even the logline sounds intriguing; “Peter has always been told the voice he hears at night is only in his head, but when he suspects his parents have been lying, he conspires to free the girl within the walls of his house.” It’s the precise type of premise that sounds perfect for newly attached director Samuel Bodin, the creator/director/co-writer behind Netflix‘s uber-creepy French series Marianne.

Marianne followed successful author Emma Larsimon (Victoire Du Bois) as she’s forced to return home to confront her past when the witch that haunts her books and nightmares terrorizes her waking life. For the duration of Emma’s writing career, the eponymous witch Marianne enjoyed finding her way to new victims through the books’ pages. With that avenue closed, she physically manifests in Emma’s life to demand the writer continue telling her malevolent exploits. Bodin ensured straight away that the viewer understood just how menacing and utterly frightening this evil witch could be with seriously unnerving scares. Of all the memorable, spine-tingling jolts and goosebumps-inducing moments of dread, there’s one unforgettable scare in episode two that stands above the rest. We can’t get it out of our heads.

In the streaming age of binge TV, series are often designed for easy consumption; one long narrative arc with its chapters broken down into digestible chunks that seamlessly blend into the next. Like comedy, though, horror requires timing precision. It’s tricky enough to craft scares and unsettling atmosphere in a feature-length film, and even trickier in a roughly six-hour series. Meaning horror series are rarely ever scary. Yet, Bodin made it look so effortless. Even more impressive is that he used the binge format as a weapon. 

The first five minutes of episode two, “Tradition,” deliver one of the most chilling scares in recent memory. On its own, the episode’s opening scare is enough to warrant sleeping with a night light. It’s rendered even more stunning by the way Boden uses the heightened climax of the previous episode to keep the momentum hurling forward, ramping up the tension to unbearable levels. 

The premiere, “Your Dreams,” wastes no time establishing many of the key players, the setup, and the creepy world of Marianne. The oft unlikable Emma has dragged her beleaguered assistant Camile (Lucie Boujenah) with her on her journey back home. After a series of awkward and flat out bizarre encounters with the locals, including off-putting Mrs. Daugeron (Mireille Herbstmeyer), the pair wind up at Emma’s parents’ house on the outskirts of town. There’s bad blood between Emma and, well, everyone, making poor Camile all the more uncomfortable in her stay. “Your Dreams” closes with Camile’s unexpected encounter with Emma’s parents in the middle of the night. The final ten minutes ends on a thrilling note, leaving your adrenaline soaring.

Camile gets up to go to the restroom, which proves disorienting in such a massive, dimly lit house. She quickly finds she’s not the only one awake- Emma’s parents are wandering the place nude and in a hypnotic daze. Emma’s father attacks Camile, then both parents wander into the woods, setting off the alarm and finally waking Emma. The screen goes black, and the credits kick in just as it delivers a jump scare; Emma’s knocked unconscious by her father. A straightforward yet unsettling scene heightened by the tension and blaring alarm sirens. 

When the second episode begins, you’d think it’d jump ahead to Emma regaining consciousness, giving the viewer room to catch their breath. It doesn’t. Instead, it refocuses back to Camile, now alone in the sprawling home and badly shaken. She works up the nerve to head downstairs, calling out for Emma over the wailing alarm and notices the back door wide open. That’s when the alarm stops and the phone rings. Poor Camile makes her way down a dark corridor to answer the phone. Shadows reach for her, and the mise en scène shows just how vulnerable Camile is out in the open; her back is almost always facing dark, empty spaces where something is likely lurking, waiting to strike. When she answers the phone, the rep on the other line from the alarm company should alleviate some of the tension… but it doesn’t.

That reassuring voice attempts to calm Camile before instructing her to close and lock that back door. She does. Then it tells her to look behind her. The house alarm may have ceased its wails, but her inner alarm spikes. The rep’s voice distorts and changes into Mrs. Daugeron’s. She’s there, waiting in the corner for Camile to see her. Her eyes transform, the music spikes, and terror crescendos until Emma shatters the suspense by pounding on the back door. 

Bodin draws out one long sequence over the final moments of the first episode into the opening of the next, without reprieve. It’s a series of scares at varying levels of fear. The strange, unnatural behavior of Emma’s parents disorients, exacerbating Camile’s fish-out-of-water anxieties. The parents move in a trancelike state, but give way to sudden bursts of unpredictable aggression. It further keeps us on edge. The setting, full of wide-open yet darkened spaces, is akin to being a small fish in a black sea of circling predators. The evil is closing in, but it’s not entirely clear from where it will strike. 

Offering a safety net only to rip it away is a tried and true scare tactic, and Bodin utilizes it well here by dangling comfort in front of Camile in the form of a friendly, authoritative voice on the phone. The meticulous pacing of this scene and Camile’s movements draw out the tension to near panic-inducing levels. 

It’s also interesting to note that the entire sequence is centered around Camile, the meek outsider. Straightaway, Emma is presented as the assertive, domineering personality, and one of her favorite hobbies is strong-arming her mild-mannered assistant. This seemingly-endless layering of scares begins with Camile waking up in the middle of the night, venturing cautiously out into the strange place she finds herself. It ends when Emma reappears at the back door, finally giving both her and us a chance to calm our increased heart rate. 

Bodin stretches out the horror for fifteen minutes, and that’s hardly the only scare that he employs in Marianne. If he packed so much terror into an eight-episode series, it’s exciting to think of what he can achieve in a lean feature-film runtime. 



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/editorials/3619111/anatomy-scare-terrifying-scene-marianne-cant-stop-thinking/

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