Mark of the Beast,
directed by Jim Gorman & Tom Seymour
(Bloodbath, 2012)

Based on the Rudyard Kipling story of the same name, Mark of the Beast is a neat little indie B-movie aimed at the DVD and pay-per-view market. Kipling's original story took place in India and displayed the author's strong belief in British colonialism. The co-directors, Jim Gorman and Tom Seymour, have moved the story to what appears to be the forests of the United States and have simplified it slightly. Otherwise, it's a reasonably faithful adaptation and an entertaining one.

After a night of partying in the local sheriff Strickland's cabin in the woods, the still-drunk Fleete (Phil Hall) and his wife, Debbie (Debbie Rochon) are walking home when Fleete, obnoxious under the best conditions, drunkenly and impulsively puts out his cigar in the eye of an idol they stumble across. He is immediately attacked by the Silver Man, who seems to be a leper priest. The leper tries to cannibalize him and puts a curse on him. After being bitten, Fleete begins acting even more like an animal than he did before, gnawing raw meat, growling and snarling, and becoming a threat to the others -- he even bites a chunk out of one woman's arm.

He is possessed and the Christian Sheriff Strickland knows the cure, which he finds in the Gospel of Luke. He and Debbie try to exorcise the demon. When their attempt fails, Strickland insists that they find the leper priest, capture him and force him to remove the curse.

They do so, although the attempt to make him remove the curse leads to a crisis of faith for Strickland -- he has make a moral decision: is he willing to violate his very principles in order to save his friend?

Mark of the Beast is beautifully shot and edited. The forest shots are especially effective; the directors bring the woods alive, making them another character in the drama. The film is well acted. The cast brings a conviction to their roles, although Hall might be having a little too much fun eye-rolling and growling while tied in a chair. Still, there's a problem or two. The soundtrack is a touch on the oppressive side and the film has a slow start. A personal quibble: the excellent Ellen Muth, the star of the also excellent Dead Like Me, gets star billing but does not really have a star part. She is simply part of the ensemble and, while she is very good, this part does not require her to stretch.

Faults aside, Mark of the Beast is an unusual and original entry in the horror market, a movie that ignores trends and fashions and goes its own way. It is well worth a rental, especially if you like a few moral questions being raised while a man is being tortured by branding.

review by
Michael Scott Cain

17 November 2012

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