It doesn’t succeed at what it wants to do. Ends up feeling like two mediocre films being awkwardly shoved together.
It’s hard to criticize a movie like Marianne considering its ambitions. Aside from a few surprises over the years the horror genre has mostly been dead in the water, and Marianne has the balls to try and put more of an emphasis on its dramatic storyline instead of its intriguing horror elements. Despite the marketing and ghostly image on the DVD cover, the scares in Marianne are only a subplot. While it’s refreshing to see a genre film try and treat its characters other than victims and survivors, Marianne doesn’t succeed at what it wants to do and ends up feeling like two mediocre films being awkwardly shoved together.
The film opens with Krister (Thomas Hedengran) attending the funeral for his wife Eva (Tintin Anderzon) who died in a car accident. Through flashbacks it is gradually revealed that Krister cheated on Eva (with the titular character), moved out but eventually reconciled with his wife after she became unexpectedly pregnant. During Krister and Eva’s first night out away from their newborn child, Krister’s mistress gets revenge by causing a car accident that kills Eva before taking her own life. Now the only family in Krister’s life is his child and older daughter Sandra (Sandra Larsson), a teenager who despises him for cheating on her mother.
Krister starts to have nightmares every night where he wakes up to find himself pinned down by the vengeful spirit of Marianne. Krister tries to talk to a therapist (Peter Stormare with a hilariously awful looking dyed beard) but is told that it’s only his brain coming up with the most unoriginal symbolism for his crushing guilt. Sandra’s boyfriend Stiff (Dylan Johansson) believes that Krister is the victim of the Mare, a demon from Swedish folklore who sits on men while they sleep and sucks the life out of them. As the attacks become worse, Krister’s mental state begins to fall apart as fast as his personal life.
Filip Tegstedt, who wrote the script and is making his directorial debut, clearly loves to take his time. Marianne is a slow burner for the most part, taking its time to develop its characters along with establishing a foreboding atmosphere. Unfortunately this translates into a lot of scenes and montages played in slow motion while rock music from an elevator plays over it.
As a drama, Marianne rarely rings true. While Hedengran does a good job making Krister sympathetic despite his unlikable actions, the rest of the cast has a bigger range in quality. There’s a wash-rinse-repeat quality to seeing Krister act like a fool and cause an argument with Sandra that reminded me of after school specials or TV movies more than anything. Major plot developments happen but they come across as so carefree that they’re more or less forgotten until a character brings it up again. Even though the majority of Marianne is spent on the dramatic elements of the story, very little comes out of it.
As a horror film, little can be said about Marianne. The nightmare sequences were somewhat effective (the use of the baby monitor’s crackling static to signify the ghost’s arrival was a nice but derivative touch) but they lacked any real impact. The inevitable ‘big scare’ that came at the climax of the movie felt more like a whimper than a bang. Eventually the hauntings feel so isolated from the rest of the film that they feel like they’re from a different movie entirely.
I’m sure that Marianne might have fared better if the writing wasn’t so shoddy. The two storylines that dominate the film are both good on their own, but both are executed poorly and feel like two completely different films competing with each other by the end of the movie. While Tegstedt has a lot of ambition, it is rarely realized in Marianne.