Mark of the Witch (2014)


WATCH OUT… For something woeful this way comes! Originally entitled Another, this insidiously incoherent neo-giallo from first-time writer/director Jason Bognacki seems to think it’s paying heartfelt homage to the infamous Italian-slasher cinema of the 70s, but in reality it’s just another insufferably indulgent modern-day horror film that blithely hacks away at the genre with all the love of a demonically possessed psychopath.

Dancing with the tired tropes of demons and the Devil, the plot is effectively a tween take on the tale of The Omen. In lieu of the deceptively pale Damien though, Satan’s spawn assumes the guise of a teenage woman this time, the beautiful & bewitching Jordyn (Paulie Redding) who, after her 18th birthday ends in personal trauma and triggers a chain of mysterious events, finds herself drawn into a wicked realm of witchcraft and the occult, guided by the hand of her Aunt Ruth (Nancy Wolfe). And as she falls further into this hellish underworld of distorted realities and sacrilegious obsessions, she begins to believe she is the kin of Beelzebub.

Soaked in saturated colours and pervaded with heavily portentous overtones, there are obvious aspirations here to emulate the work of Argento, but it’s all too obvious from the beginning that Bognacki’s inauspicious talents are incapable of conjuring such a sinister atmosphere. An overuse of stylised slow motion, and a ritualistically regular inclusion of garish graphics is certainly disturbing, but not for the right reasons; the director’s abuse of such artistic accompaniments being akin to that of a gleeful child who has been given access to cutting edge editing software, and is detrimentally determined to incorporate every empty embellishment.

Worse still is the script, written by Bognacki, which stumbles shambolically between heavy-handed scenes of exposition and frustratingly ambiguous action sequences. No effort is ever made to summon ominous spirits or original ideas, all that haunts this world of witches is an oversexed mysticism that may have the power to titillate the more undemanding members of the audience, but is less than likely to terrorise them.

Cursed with a callously underwritten lead role, Paulie Redding proves herself to be an uncomfortable screen presence from the outset; her artificial aura plaguing the picture like an evil apparition that cannot be exorcised. Thankfully though, Nancy Wolfe’s enjoyably exaggerated support ensures that while this never reaches the heights of a Hammer horror, it does at least succeed in being a hammy one.

Mark of the Witch is released on DVD 15h February 2016.

Director: Jason Bognacki
Writer: Jason Bognacki
Stars: David Landry, Maria Olsen, Lillian Pennypacker
Runtime: 80 mins
Country: USA

Film Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

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