Amidst all the horror memes and Jason Vorhees social media posts, Netflix quietly dropped a brilliantly creepy French horror series this past Friday the 13th! Marianne deals with a writer of horror fiction, whose stories seem to be haunting her in the real world. But more than that, it’s a 8 episode tension build with good scares, and a fascinating reflection on what it means to be a writer.
Fiction and Truth Blended
Much like the 2006 Will Ferrell film Stranger Than Fiction, Marianne features a writer whose characters and plots seem to be coming true in the real world. The former played this idea for drama and comedy, while the latter takes this concept to a rather horrifying conclusion.
We begin with famed horror author Emma (Victoire Du Bois) who has just published the final book in her series, which deals with the evil witch known as Marianne. However, she soon discovers that this demon she’s made her career off of is very real, and wants her to continue writing. Her refusal results in a dark journey into her past, unraveling dark secrets from her past, as well as the pasts of her loved ones.
The series really shines in its ability to build and maintain suspense for 8 episodes, while never feeling dragged out, or going too far over the top. It shows just the right amount to be genuinely creepy, all while giving us a strong story with well-developed characters. Each one (including Emma), are far from completely innocent or evil.
French Horror is known for its unflinching brutality, as is the case with such classics as High Tension and Matyrs. Marianne however, proves that French Horror can be incredibly subtle as well.
It’s an eerie slow burn that relishes in its minimal CGI, but overall creepy effects. The series is also complemented by a beautiful seaside setting that’s capture with amazing cinematography. It’s a sad reality that many Netflix originals look cheaply and quickly shot, but Marianne looks far more cinematic than most of them!
Metaphor for Writer’s Block?
At its core, Marianne is about the power of written word. For some it can be therapeutic or cathartic, much how Emma wrote these stories to cope with the trauma of her past. And for others, the written word can keep an idea alive and prevent them from fading into obscurity, much like how the titular witch used her stories to obtain more power.
Either way, writing is a powerful tool that can be used for good or evil, it really depends upon the user. One’s writing can also feel like it’s holding them hostage, literally or figuratively. As Marianne threatens Emma’s loved ones unless she writes more stories, we can’t help but be reminded of Paul Sheldon being held captive by Annie Wilkes in Misery. She too was threatening a writer with violence if he didn’t write another book of his signature series.
The same thing happens in the real life, albeit in a much more symbolic sense. As Game of Thrones the TV series began to catch up (and surpass) George R.R. Martin’s books, fans were downright brutal in their demands that he finish his books and give them an ending. All the pressure only slowed his progress, and to date, he still hasn’t published the next book.
In the aftermath of the series’ less than impressive ending, Martin has even admitted that he thinks the TV adaptation was ultimately bad for his writing. The terrifying supernatural force that Emma faces seems quite reminiscent of the inner demons that all writers face from one avenue or another.
Overall, Marianne is a solid horror serial that of course leaves itself open for a second season. Given that so many Netflix originals are more miss than hit, it’s truly refreshing to find a hidden gem like this. There’s not much more to be said without spoiling it. So just go watch it, and if necessary, keep the lights on afterwards!
Marianne is now streaming exclusively on Netflix!