If Jason Bognacki had focused his undeniable give for arresting visuals while making MARK OF THE WITCH (aka ANOTHER), he would have made a poetically disturbing film about the sins of the parents being visited on their children. Instead, he has cobbled long swaths of irksome exposition into a horror film that grows tedious before it can grow creepy. Dark figures in robes with pointed hoods, a sudden blade to the gut at a birthday party, getting a wish that shouldn’t have been sent out to the universe, there are horror elements aplenty, but washed out with too much explanation. What we don’t know, as well as what we can’t see, is always the most terrifying.
Bognacki has another genius for casting, which allays the shortcomings, if just barely. His innocent in peril is played by gamine Paulie Redding (billed here as Rojas), an actress with enormous eyes and the requisite air of sweetness and purity that the role demands. She is Jordyn, whose 18th birthday begins with family bickering with her troubled Aunt Ruth (Nancy Wolfe) and ends in the emergency room of the local hospital. The trouble doesn’t end there. Jordyn begins having vivid nightmares and being told by her friends that she has been behaving strangely, doing things that Jordyn does not remember. Revelations, spelled out in excruciating detail, follow, as does blood, madness, and a mother figure that makes Medea seem like the distaff version of Mr. Rogers.
She is played, leading with her teeth, by Maria Olsen, which makes for more of those ci-mentioned arresting visuals. The dreamlike fugue-state that dominates the film with its selective focus and trilling slo-mo effects connect directly with the subconscious as the deliver a reality in slashing conflict with our own. Those teeth dominating the field of view not by encompassing it, but by being the most concrete object to be seen, and to tap into something beyond mere scares.
Alas, people will not stop talking, will not allow this to be a quasi-experimental work that gnaws like a worm into our sense of well-being by using imagery that is both confounding and limbic.