Mark of the Witch Movie Review
Written by Karin Crighton
Released by Epic Pictures
Written and directed by Jason Bognacki
2014, 80 minutes, Not Rated
Digitally released on June 6th, 2016
David Landry as Donny
Maria Olsen as the Demon Witch
Lillian Pennypacker as Kym
Paulie Redding (as Paulie Rojas) as Jordyn
Up until Jordyn's 18th birthday, life is rather ordinary. But as soon as she blows out the candles, everything changes. Her ultra-religious Aunt Ruth suffers a breakdown, she begins to experience lost time, and she hears voices around her calling her into dark places she doesn't want to go. But the more she resists, the more it seems she can't escape the pull into an unfathomable evil that may just be her destiny.
Mark of the Witch is a beautifully choreographed movie that makes no sense whatsoever. Half ‘90s music video and half Maybelline commercial, the styling is so over the top, the plot is lost. Most of the movie is out of focus establishing shots and slow motion; I'm fairly certain if you sped up all those scenes Mark of the Witch would only be 15 minutes long. And that's all it really needs to be since the narrative is unintelligible.
There is no rhyme or reason to how this movie begins. I felt as though I was dropped into the middle of season two of an ongoing series with no recap of the previous episodes. There is no establishing the characters and their relationships, so every dialogue exchange is baffling. Jordyn seems to have a bit of a temper, but manages it with meek manners. Then all of a sudden she's screaming that her aunt's faith is useless. Is that her inner demon speaking or just an angry teenager? We have no idea. Her friends seem supportive then betray her horrifically; but since there's no exposition, it's impossible to know that they were good friends up until this point.
An infuriating number of inconsistencies with reality pop up as Mark of the Witch progresses. The movie opens with her 18th birthday, but she already has an apartment with her friend Kym and a job as an unsupervised pharmacy assistant. A minor can't sign a lease, and an unlicensed assistant requires a licensed pharmacy tech present to dispense secured drugs: this I know from a summer of experience working in a pharmacy, when I was 18. If these things are in fact necessary, then we need to know how they are possible. Is it Kym's family's apartment and they let her live there without parents present? Why would overprotective Ruth even let her move out? Why is she wearing stiletto booties and a cocktail dress to a job that requires a great deal of standing? Why is an incorrect actor's name listed in the credits? There's no end to the carelessness of this film's production.
The editing is as big a problem as the consistency. There are moments of complete darkness accompanied with meaningless dialogue; actions repeat themselves under flashy but distracting special effects. The out-of-focus transitions seems to be a tool to reduce the amount of establishing shots of exteriors the director needed, such as a strip club wasn't available, so the editor blurred the entrance to a movie theatre to make it look like a strip club. This is just an example; I couldn't tell what I was looking at either way.
I do think the actors gave it their all despite this nonsensical script. Paulie Rojas is very passionate as Jordyn, Lillian Pennypacker is very present as Kym, and David Landry is very relaxed as Donny, but this movie does not give their talent its due. Even the wonderful Maria Olsen flounders as a Demon with this inscrutable writing and pointless direction.
The only thing spot-on is the music. It is in lovely contrast to what is happening and perfectly sets, changes, and deepens each scene and mood perfectly.
Mark of the Witch is a movie without a narrative; it proves that beautiful cinematography and a skilled cast can't make up for a lazy script with no soul. The story is the movie, and no amount of effects can change that.