Rudyard Kipling’s Mark of the Beast
directed by Jon Gorman and Thomas Edward Seymour
starring Debbie Rochon, Phil Hall, Dick Boland, and Mark Bovino
There’s a lot to like here. It’s a low-budget horror shot through an Instagram filter and based on an obscure Rudyard Kipling story. In a remote wooded cabin, friends gather for a New Year’s Eve party even though it looks like August in North Carolina. Fleete (Hall) gets eight sheets to the wind and desecrates the Leper God’s altar in the woods by rubbing out a cigar on it. This annoys the Leper God (Bovino), who bites Fleet, giving him a curse that looks a lot like rabies. Strickland (Boland) is the local sheriff and exorcist; he and Fleet’s girlfriend Debbie (Rochon) tie Fleete to a chair and marinate him in salt, oil, and holy water, but it does no good. The stakes are raised, and Strickland announces, “I may be a Christian, but if God ain’t helpin’ out on this one, he’s just gonna have to forgive me while I beat up a cripple in the woods.” He drags the Leper God into the cabin, beats him, and burns him until he removes the curse. I was unimpressed by the Leper God’s powers. If a human can hog tie and torture a supernatural being, that’s victimhood, not godhead.
This is a well-done film that riffs off the look of old Hammer and Corman horror, but exploits modern video processing to enhance the look. The Leper God makeup is excellent, the acting respectable, and the horror goes more psychological than gruesome. Various filters change the colors of the scenes to indicate emotional direction, and there’s a reasonable amount of blood and no nudity. I like the snappy dialog. Boland’s delivery rivals Shatner’s, and Fleete is just enough of a jerk that you don’t really mourn his exit. There’s a director’s commentary that tends to be a little more film geeky than most people would appreciate, but the soundtrack is ominous and well scored. All around, this is an excellent effort from the team that brought us Bikini Bloodbath Car Wash.