Stars: Ana Paula Redding, David Landry, Lillian Pennypacker, Michael St. Michaels, Nancy Wolfe | Written and Directed by Jason Bognacki
There’s a joke in Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, the under-seen but superlative comedy about the making of a fictional eighties horror programme, that is too good not to repeat at any given opportunity. In it, the show’s producer, played by Richard Ayoade, claims that due to episodes running far too short, any scene without dialogue was considered for slow motion. Given its own brief running time of just eighty minutes and its predilection for the special effect, one wonders if Mark of the Witch was produced under a similar ethos.
Mark of the Witch portrays Jordyn (Ana Paula Redding), a young woman who keeps having weird and wacky experiences of a not entirely pleasant nature. Turns out, she’s being harassed/possessed by a demonic presence. There’s not really a great deal more to the plot than that, director Jason Bognacki being far more interested in visual flair than narrative – which is his prerogative. As such, the film is a feast of strange, beautiful and grotesque imagery that more than makes up for the silliness of what little story there is.
The film plays out like a gialllo dream-sequence, with special effects, surrealist imagery and the aforementioned slow motion in spades. It’s not always successful; there’s a scene where Jordyn’s aunt battles the demon which is framed by some very cheap-looking CGI fire, which looks like the kind of effect that might come as standard in some sort of ‘My First CGI’ software package. The aforementioned silliness occurs when melodramatic moments such as this falter into absurdity, which happens on more than a couple of occasions. It’s not enough to scupper the film’s whimsical appeal but it does induce a smirk or two. It does feel fairly odd to describe a film that portrays some imagery as violent and unpleasant as this does as whimsical, but that was the overall impression I was left with after seeing it. Is there such a thing as satanic whimsy?
Mark of the Witch is not exactly what you called scary – perhaps freaky at best – and with its slim plot and game but hardly outstanding performances. However, if you’re looking for change of pace to something a little more reflective and considered, then perhaps it is the picture you should seek out. I can’t really say it too often though, it’s all about the imagery, special effects, cinematography and use of colour – and sometimes that’s more than enough.
Mark of the Witch (aka Devils Daughter, aka Another) is released on DVD on February 15th, courtesy of Metrodome.