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Mark of the Beast (1986)

| Horror | Video 1986


(as Robert Stewart)


, (as Robert Stewart)


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jim Gordon ...
Paul Ashton (as James Gordon)
Carolyn Guillet ...
Karen Chimann
David Smukler ...
Peter Devlin
William Lebans ...
Charlene Richards ...
Judy Graham
John Graham ...
Mike Spencer
Hereward Pooley ...
Stanley Tardiff
Richard Hemmings
William Jay ...
Martin Singleton
Patricia Andrews ...
Scott Finlay ...
Mark Danniher ...
C. Ed Matthews ...
Sgt. Sullivan
Susan Giles Smith ...


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1986 (Canada)  »

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Interesting Potential
1 March 2010 | by (New York, USA) – See all my reviews

This is the second shot-on-video psycho killer movie from Canada that I've found on old home video releases from Europe, where people will watch just about anything it seems. I collect offbeat, low budget horror movies on video as a hobby and came upon both quite by chance as they were packaged as slasher movie fare. Can't recall the name of the other one movie -- and they are movies, regardless of the technology used -- but the approach was the same: Try to construct a horror movie focusing on a serial killer using local TV station caliber video equipment, local acting talent including some bright kids from the area college with a media studies program, and approach it with the same kind of seriousness that one might a feature length entertainment.

This was the more interesting and adventuresome of the two productions, and appears to be essentially a student film approach to making a low-budget takeoff on BLOW-UP (or BLOW OUT, as Brian de Palma himself remade it) with the assassination of a political figure caught on tape by accident. Only its not just rival ideological factions behind the slew of murders that follow, it's a satanic cult efforting a bid to exert global influence & prepare for the return of Satan to the earth, plus the subsequent enslavement of mankind. Whoever wrote this was thinking big! Certainly far beyond your standard shot-on-video feature approach, and the methodical way the movie is constructed speaks for an artistic vision at work. They just simply shot it on video out of expediency, preferring to see the film as they could make it with the resources at hand, and while the results are awkward in a few spots -- especially the ending -- the way it is being told is quite involving for the bulk of the story.

One of the reasons is the violence. While the protagonist is your standard issue budding student video / photography enthusiast, the character driving the story is the vicious, ruthless, completely amoral assassin ninja freak maniac the cult employs to silence those who may even unwittingly expose their plot. And while not necessarily depicted in a graphic manner, his murder of anybody & everybody who gets in his way is quite chilling and bloody. There is a surprisingly high body count for such a production and some genuinely disturbing scenes that are strikingly at odds with the TV look of the movie. The killer only has about 20 lines and exists only as a function of the plot with no background story or exposition, but is a far more interesting character than the protagonist.

Who for that matter seems to spend an inordinate amount of time re-living memories with a deceased friend, moping about his video studio or apartment while the story takes place without him. He seems like a nice guy & enthused by his work, but the movie never really gives him anything to do except look concerned. He teams up with a young nurse who cared for his dying friend and the two slowly unravel the mystery of who is orchestrating the cult's actions while falling in love. The point of which escapes me, other than somebody decided that the guy needed a girlfriend. Some wooden acting prevails and the movie's musical score is also a bit much at times, though they did come up with a satisfactory ominous synthesizer piece for the main theme. You can tell they really meant it even when it gets kind of sappy.

One other aspect about the production that struck me is that it seems to be about VTR era video production even as much as it is about some story of a satanic spree killer. We even get to learn some of the basic terminology about video production & editing along the way. You can sort of see in your mind's eye how some bright mind put two + two together while perhaps taking their own media studies course in studio techniques, and realized they might be able to make a decent little horror movie using those resources. They got in touch with some area industry types (producer Lionel Shenken seems to have made a number of these) who was able to help out with casting, access to equipment, permission to shoot on locations, a small technical crew and enough money to pay the catering bill.

Here's the result, and it nuked an hour & a half of my time painlessly enough. Worth a look for those with a taste for something different.


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