Netflix UK TV review: Marianne
Ivan Radford | On 03, Nov 2019
There are scary TV shows, and there are scary TV shows. Then, there’s Netflix’s Marianne. The French horror follows a famous horror writer who takes a break from writing, only to discover the character from her book exists in the real world.
It’s a premise that sounds like it came straight out of a kids’ movie, like Inkheart or The Pagemaster, but this character is far from friendly: it’s a demon, called Marianne, and she’s seriously nasty. She makes an appearance in the very opening scene, in which she removes a tooth from her mouth manually – much to the horror of her daughter, Caroline. Caroline, we learn, is an old friend of bestselling author, Emma (Victoire Du Bois), and she warns Emma that Marianne is very much real.
Emma, meanwhile, is busy planning to stop writing about Marianne in her Lizzie Larck series of books – something that Marianne doesn’t take too kindly to. The malevolent spirit’s urge to keep on living in any form becomes the driving force for what follows, as Emma finds herself haunted, stalked and tormented by the demon until she agrees to continue writing again.
Director Samuel Bodin (who co-wrote the series with Quoc Dang Tran) has a real knack for keeping things grounded in reality: at first, we only see Marianne in the form of Madame Daugeron, played by Mireille Herbstmeyer. Herbstmeyer, quite simply, can twist her features into a terrifying face, with a horrible grin and a creepy stare. Just that alone is enough to freak you out, before she start saying unsettling things or wielding kitchenware.
Over eight episodes, the show builds on that primal fear, juggling all kinds of familiar tropes, from spooky houses and darkened rooms with flashlights to bleak landscapes, childlike chanting and even a priest. Bodin, crucially, laces each of these with an emotional torment, anchored in Victoire Du Bois’ intense performance; we soon learn that Marianne was a figure in her nightmares as a child, a revelation that leads to the gradual unpicking of past trauma and forgotten horrors.
Marianne’s other secret weapon is sheer speed: the show is stuffed with jump-scares, imaginative flourishes and sinister holes in the ground, and they rush past at a breakneck rate, never letting you settling into a rhythm or anticipate what’s coming next. Guns are acquired, people are possessed and people end up dropping like flies almost as quickly as we begin to suspect them of not being who they say they are.
The result may not have the depth of The Haunting of Hill House, but Marianne is a wonderful demonstration that it doesn’t matter how original your ideas are as long as you can do pull them off well. Well performed, expertly directed and relentlessly paced, it’s a gripping ride that makes the hair prick up on the back of your neck time and time again, and will have you bingeing while looking between your fingers in the hope of reaching some kind of catharsis come the end credits. Spoiler warning: Even after the final chapter, you’ll still be sleeping with the lights on.
Marianne is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.