Not only is the title superimposed over an image from the indie effort, but two clickable options, two URLs and four review blurbs, as if to convince you upfront that you are about to witness brilliance. To further complicate the eyesore, the blurbs are not presented in consistent typeface, color or size. In other words, it overdoes it.
Then again, so does the narration, which is an immediate sign that the 70 minutes or so to come will be less than stellar. Following Kipling’s short story faithfully, it recounts a New Year’s Eve party in a cabin that the celebrants will never forget — mostly because one of them gets bitten by a boil-ridden leper. This is what happens when you dare amble through a forest in which shrines to “the monkey god” are constructed and in plain view.
After surviving the bite, Fleete (Phil Hall of the Bikini Bloodbath trilogy — yes, there exists such a thing) just can’t eat enough chops. Soon thereafter, he’s snarling. This makes Sheriff Strickland (Dick Boland, also of the Bikini Bloodbath trilogy) and Debbie (DTV scream queen Debbie Rochon) wonder if he’s in need of a rabies shot or an exorcism. As the title suggests, ’tis the latter.
I like that directors Jonathan Gorman and Thomas Edward Seymour (the guys behind, yep, that Bikini Bloodbath thingie) are drawing inspiration from the literary classics, because the works are classic for a reason. (Bonus for DIY filmmakers: They’re in the public domain, so you don’t have to pay for rights.) In their adaptation, however, they fail to strike a balance between reverence and relevance.
For example, they should have updated the narration to match the modern times in which they’ve updated the story to exist, because in using Kipling’s prose almost word for word, she simply doesn’t speak like we speak, nor sound like every other character: “And his body shone like silver, and his disease was heavy upon it.” There’s nothing wrong with hewing that closely to the source material … if it’s done across the board.
As is, the constant back-and-forth switch is jarring — especially since we know Kipling didn’t write sentences like “Are you fucking with me?” and “Shit or get off the pot here, c’mon.” But what really keeps Mark of the Beast from matching its ambition is the amateurish acting, Rochon excepted. To borrow another line of dialogue from the film, “This shit ain’t workin’.” —Rod Lott