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December 1, 2012

Movie Review: Rudyard Kipling's Mark of the Beast (2012)

Directed by Jonathan Gorman, Thomas Edward Seymour
Starring Ellen Muth, Debbie Rochon and Margaret Rose Champagne
Run Time: 72 minutes

When one thinks of Rudyard Kipling the first thing’s that usually comes to mind are the wild-boy Mowgli, his friend Baloo the bear and the classic children's story The Jungle Book. What a lot of people don't know (myself included before seeing this movie), is that Kipling also wrote some pretty dark little short stories, among them the one that this movie is based on.

Getting a modernized re-telling, Mark of the Beast tells the story of a group of people all living in a rural area which, legend has it, is the home of a mysterious and mystical beast in the form of a silver leper who prowl’s the local woods. As a sort of tradition this group of people all gather for an annual New Years Eve party at the home of the local sheriff, and as is usually the case, there’s always one douchebag who drinks too much, makes an ass of himself and then throws up all over the place. In this case that douchebag is Fleete (Phill Hall) and upon waking from his stupor he is escorted home through the woods, but before his two hung-over friends can get him home to bed they stumble across a candle-covered shrine in a creek bed and Fleete snuffs out his cigar on the effigy, and out of nowhere the silver leper appears, touching Fleete and apparently laying a curse on him. Soon after, Fleete begins to act strangely and eventually bites one of the party-goers, which leads the group to fear he has rabies. Not long after though, they are forced to consider the possibility that he may be possessed by a demon or indeed cursed by the leper. In an act of desperation they attempt an exorcism but this fails miserably and they ultimately decide they must capture the leper and somehow force him to remove the curse, by whatever means necessary.

At a glance it seems like a story that would have the potential to be fairly interesting, if done in a thoughtful manner. The only problem here is, its not done well at all. In fact, this movie was an absolute stinker on just about every possible level, say for the musical score which was actually quite good and just seemed way out of place on a movie this bad. A lot of times a good score can save a bad movie in my opinion, but not even the eerie and atmospheric music could detract from a script that inspired no interest in the well-being of any of the main characters, who all came across as under-developed and often erratic and inconsistent in their actions. The actors did a fair enough job but just had nothing to work with, the dialog exchanges often being pretty mechanical and unrealistic.

This was an ultra-low-budget affair that seemed to bite off more then it could chew with a story like this. The make-up work on the silver leper was decent enough but looked suspiciously similar to Toxie from The Toxic Avenger. Not very scary and in fact the most disturbing part of this film wasn't the torture scenes near the end, but the appearance of Ellen Muth (Remember the adorably cute actress who starred in the TV series Dead Like Me?), she looked absolutely emaciated and in desperate need of a cheeseburger. Her appearance was quite shocking and would lead me to believe she was not in the best of health during the filming of this movie. Most unfortunate, which can also sum up the flick. You knew they were trying to convey some type of moral and religious stance but the execution was so poorly done that it just came across as another bad indie wanna-be horror movie.
I score it 3 out of 10.

*Documentary “Making of the Beast”
*Directors Commentary
*Trailers and Teasers

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