When Jordyn (Paulie Rojas) celebrates her eighteenth birthday and blows out the candles on her birthday cake, she quickly discovers she should have been more careful with what she wished for. She always thought she was an orphan, raised by her aunt (Nancy Wolfe) who ruins Jordyn’s birthday celebrations by screaming at the top of her lungs and plunging the obscenely long cake knife into her chest. But her aunt’s attempted suicide is only the beginning – soon, Jordyn realises she is being pursued by a malevolent supernatural force, a hideous Witch (Maria Olsen) who seems to follow Jordyn everywhere she goes, even snips off a lock of her hair before she realises it, and is poised to initiate Jordyn into some truly twisted occult secrets. Jordyn has always wondered where she came from, but is she really prepared to discover what that is? Her journey will take her through sleepwalking reality-shifts and hurl Jordyn into a cruel looking-glass world. As her aunt warns, “There is something out there… and it will find you, whether you want to be found or not.”
Mark of the Witch was originally screened at London’s Frightfest 2014 under the title ‘Another’ (a less sensational title but a better one) and was quickly hailed as one of the hits of the festival. It was also, in this reviewer’s opinion, the best film of that year, so it is great to see it finally appearing on DVD.
This is that rare cinematic accomplishment – an intelligently written, beautifully crafted horror movie that is also, quite often, magnificent to look at. From the bleached browns and greys of the opening sequence to the golden bright eye of the raven that is always close by, to the rich reds and darks of the Witch’s boudoir, the photography and art direction of Mark of the Witch is never less than superb. Writer / director Jason Bognacki has accomplished something quite phenomenal with this film and his cast rises to the challenge, especially the stunning Audrey Hepburn-lookalike Paulie Rojas whose switches between innocence and dark cunning are convincingly unsettling, Maria Olsen who plays the Witch with an intensity you rarely see outside of the blackest Brothers Grimm fairy tale, and gravel voiced Nancy Wolfe, whose measured tones and heavy lidded eyes make Aunt Ruth a character we’re never quite sure should be trusted. Lillian Pennypacker, as Jordyn’s best friend Kym, who finds herself violently caught up in all the diabolical shenanigans, also deserves a strong mention.
Don’t miss Mark of the Witch. When Lucifer Rising’s Kenneth Anger pronounced that cinema could also be a magical ritual, he could easily have been talking about this film. It has tremendous power and it stands alongside Dario Argento’s Suspiria and Inferno as a disquieting depiction of black witchcraft that is also quite gorgeous to behold. Evil hasn’t looked this good in a very long time.
MARK OF THE WITCH / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: JASON BOGNACKI / SCREENPLAY: JASON BOGNACKI / STARRING: PAULIE ROJAS, MARIA OLSEN, LILLIAN PENNYPACKER, NANCY WOLFE / RELEASE DATE: 15TH FEBRUARY