Eye For Film >> Movies >> Mark Of The Witch (2014) Film Review
Mark Of The Witch
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
How often do you hear people say "I don't like horror films but I like psychological horror"? Disturbances of the mind are considered different, somehow classier. Mark Of The Witch is all about such disturbance, but it's also gleefully bloody and drenched in dark eroticism.
Paulie Redding is Jordyn, just turning 18. This means not only achieving legal adulthood, but reaching the age where she must learn about the family curse. It means discovering a dark secret about her parentage - one hinted at in the film's elegant opening scene - and facing an uncertain future. Beset by strange dreams and hallucinations, waking to find herself in unexpected places, she also finds herself sexually tempted by what seems to be her doppelgänger, with all the danger that implies. Can she hold onto her identity? Over time, will she want to?
Deliberately incoherent, with many scenes unfolding from Jordyn's distorted perspective, Mark Of The Witch is more about hints and possibilities than formal narrative. There are pros and cons to this. On the negative side, Redding isn't really strong enough to carry it - the scenes between older cast members are notably stronger - and sometimes it seems that writer/director Jason Bognacki is using it as cover for the fact he doesn't really have much plot. On the plus side, it gives him room to experiment with a number of different strong visual ideas, beautifully rendered. Visually and structurally, the film draws heavily on giallo traditions, and it's irritating and seductive in just the ways this suggests. It feels immature and unfinished but it loudly proclaims Bognacki's potential.
Occult themes is horror have been going through a bit of a revival in recent years but are still rare enough to be interesting, and in this regard Bognacki's approach is more successful than most of the film's overly expository peers. Its lingering mystery makes it less about litany and more about faith, albeit perhaps not a comfortable kind. Its religiosity is effectively woven around mundane events. The contrast between the mundane and the spiritual is something many people will have a personal connection with, and it makes the film till more discomfiting. Knowingly lurid sex scenes are balanced by a sense of the uncanny.
For all its failings, for all its pretension, Mark Of The Witch is a damn sight bolder and more interesting than most of what's around these days, and for that reason it's well worth seeking out.
Mark Of The Witch comes out on digital and VOD on 6/6/16.Reviewed on: 13 May 2016