REVIEW: ‘Mark of the Witch’ (2014)

Mark of the WitchTitle: ‘Mark of the Witch’
2014, USA
Director: Jason Bognacki
Cast: Paulie Redding, Nancy Wolfe, Maria Olsen

Jason Bognacki’s feature debut has been circulating on the festival circuit for almost two years, garnering considerable critical acclaim and quite a few accolades. Now, after a change of title from the anonymous ‘Another’ to a more sellable ‘Mark of the Witch’, the movie is finally being released on DVD for the British market.

I won’t dance around it. This is a typical “love it or hate it” situation. ‘Mark of the Witch’ is manifestly intended as a tribute to the classic Italian giallo genre from the 70’s. The plot itself (a teenage girl discovers she may be the satanic spawn of an evil witch) is a not-so-subtle reference to Dario Argento’s witchy flicks from his golden age. The problem is that age is long gone, and I find it difficult to believe that many viewers will find this particular style appealing.

The raw, sometimes disorienting editing, the surreal cinematography constantly playing with blur effects, lights and colors, it all contributes to shattering any spatial and temporal reference point. It takes time to acclimate oneself with this surreal dreamlike atmosphere. It’s like one of those nightmare we can’t remember when we wake up, even though they leave us with a distinct sense of uneasiness and confusion.

The corny dialogues, the over-the-top acting and the not-so-special effects are also part of Bognacki’s homage to a genre that mainstream audiences are probably not familiar with anymore. To most people, ‘Mark of the Witch’ will probably appear like a bad B-movie. So the question is: are you a refined connaisseur of giallo? If not, I won’t lie, you’ll probably dislike this film with a passion.

Personally, I can see the artistic merits in what Bognacki tried to achieve. In a horror market oversaturated with shitty found footage flicks, that’s got to count for something.

★★☆☆☆

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