Motion pictures evolving from literary origins come in all shapes, sizes and timescales it would seem. Tolkien’s THE HOBBIT, for example, emerges out of a cloud of controversy in UK cinemas this festive season, a full three quarters of a century after it was originally published. But even the length of this transition is dwarfed by a curious new movie by Jon Gorman and Tom Seymour. MARK OF THE BEAST was originally penned back in 1890 by a certain Rudyard Kipling (yes the Jungle Book bloke!) and is a short story comprised of a mere 5000 words. While team Gorman and Seymour don’t have a 48fps storm to generate any debates, they DO have Debbie Rochon onboard as the leading lady!!!
The movie starts at a remote cabin in woodland just outside Connecticut and is staged over New Years Eve as a group of friends gather for some seasonal revelry.
Strickland (Dick Boland) the local Sheriff and his wife Sheri (Sheri Lynn) are the hosts and are cordially joined by four guests consisting of Natalie (Ellen Muth), Debbie (Debbie Rochon), Maggie (Margaret Rose Champagne) and Fleete (Phil Hall).
As wine is steadily supped and dinner devoured, the annual midnight butchering of Auld Lang Syne is soon upon them.
But one partygoer is not content to simply wash his "cup ‘o kindness" down with a few sensible drinks. No, Fleete overdoes the ole liquor chugging to the extreme and, not satisfied with leaving a puddle of vomit on his host’s pillow, thinks it would be hilarious to throw Strickland’s car keys into the lake.
The following morning, still "gorgeously drunk" Fleete is helped back across the woodland by Strickland and Debbie. During the jaunt they stumble across a bizarre religious shrine which, according to local folklore, is dedicated to a mysterious Beast Monkey God. Still apparently rat arsed, Fleete thinks it would be rather jovial to extinguish his cigar on the side of the statue’s face. BIG MISTAKE!
The sudden attack from a hideous silver skinned leper, who appears from within the sinister temple, leaves a bite mark on the drunken offender. Over the next few hours, as Fleete sobers, his wound festers and his health deteriorates. With the local doctor somewhat perplexed, the group fear their friend’s stupid disrespectful act has now rendered him under some form of evil possession.
Our protagonists are now faced with dilemmas that will test their individual faiths and morals as they find out just how far they will go to help a friend...
Ok so with a 10 day shoot and an eventual budget around $7000 the viewer at least won’t have to choose between dual or triple dimensional viewing at a regional IMAX! (I promise that’s the very last reference to the fucking Hobbit!)
Such budgetary constraints obviously mean certain limitations. That said, I didn’t feel that characters fell into hackneyed ‘kill by numbers’ stereotypes and, for the most part, the acting was of a solid standard. Fans of Ms Rochon will be pleased to know that she also provides the films narration. While I know this spoken word overlay in movies is often scoffed at, it at least quotes the original literature.
The picture has been given a notable post production vintage makeover with film reel damage effects forged into the movie at various points. I felt this was a little excessive as the movie already had an intended grainy appearance without the need for fake lines dancing around the screen every few minutes.
I did however appreciate Gregory Kissner’s cinematography that graced the movie with an eclectic blend of hue washed visuals and a striking use of light and shadows. It all combined to give the movie a distinctly theatrical look.
At the heart of the movie was a surreal torture sequence featuring the pus ridden hoary fiend. After reading Kipling’s original prose, I can confirm the motion picture version depicts what the author thought was best left to the reader’s morbid imagination. With the obligatory grouping of chair and rope used in the movie, I can only surmise that the 1890’s were not quite ready for torture porn!
Finally, what of the beast itself? Crafted by Leigh Radziwon, (who tongue in cheek claimed on the extras that she was "channelling Lucio Fulci’s ZOMBIE (FLESHEATERS) when creating the makeup effects) the ogre did admittedly have a hideous appearance whose toxic boils protruding out of its cranium just ached to be popped!
Given the measly budget, such a creature could easily have come out looking like a member of Slipknot whose mask had developed acne! But Radziwon’s endeavours did provide the movie with a suitably grotesque ogre. The DVD has an extras section which is comprised of three trailers, one of which was made by a film student as part of a competition the directors ran. We also get a feature length commentary track with the two directors whose clear discourse is informative yet light-hearted and confirm that their love of 1970’s Horror gave the movie its ‘look’.
At a mere 72 minutes (with 11 of those gobbled up with the collective beginning and end credits) I doubt MotB is going to gatecrash anybody’s ‘best film of 2012 list’ at the last minute. But there is enough weirdness and originality in there to provide an entertaining hour or so.
Review by Marc Lissenburg
|Released by BLOOD BATH PICTURES|
|see main review|