The Mark Of The Bell Witch Review- The First Accounting of Ghostly Murder Is Heartpounding
The Mark Of The Bell Witch is the first documentary account of the legend of the Bell Witch. It is smart, slick, and surprisingly scary.
The story of the Bell Witch is an incredibly interesting one. It’s been told countless times in a variety of forms. There have been more films than you can count of the famous witch. Everything from The Blair Witch to The Bell Witch Haunting has tried to capitalize on the spooky story. The Mark Of The Bell Witch by director Seth Breedlove is a different beast. This is the first documentary of the Bell Witch and the ill-fated Bell family. It is a meticulous accounting of the real history behind the most famous of witches. Part documentary, part campfire ghost story, is a film that reads like a found footage film but with a news story’s authenticity. Each interview and historical reenactment is more compelling than the one before.
Breedlove, known for his production company Small Town Monsters, released The Mothman Of Point Pleasant and On The Trail Of Bigfoot, to name a few. He has made a name for himself making these types of genre-melding films. The Mark Of The Bell Witch uses the book, The Bell Witch, published in 1894 by M. V. Ingram as a jumping-off point. Through cleverly designed interviews with historians, townsfolk, and an author, the viewer gets a picture of unspeakable torment and a still superstitious town. Two hundred years after the haunting and death of John Bell, the legend endures.
The Bell Witch has left Adams, Tennessee, but even though the town jokes about the witch, there is respect hidden in their eyes that speaks of lingering fear. The small town has been haunted, plagued, and in some small part benefitted from the legend of the Bell family. During the film, we glimpse what it looked like to be at the wrong end of a curse and the effect a spirit can have on a family. Thanks in large part to camera work reminiscent of Ken Burns, we watch both in horror and morbid interest as we follow John Bell and his family as they try to come to grips with what is happening.
John Bell is a farming man, choosing to settle down in Tennessee with his family and a handful of slaves. Upon arriving, they build a log cabin, the site of their haunting. Building anxiety layer by layer, the Bell family plight is intricately shown. This is what compelling oral history sounds like. Great use of sound and lighting create an intense atmosphere. Despite Mark Of The Bell Witch being a documentary, some parts will leave you feeling unsettled if not outright scared.
The family is fully fleshed out, and you feel their fear calling from the past. This was a family in crisis. You are with the family every step of the way, hearing the haunted chains rap against the floor above, the whispers of Kate(the potential spirit), and you are left at the edge of your seat wanting more. Who is she? What does she want? Are you endangering yourself by watching?
Breedlove makes good use of his enigmatic witch. She is linked to several different things and could be as innocent as a vicious gossip and judgy neighbor or as deadly as a vengeful ghost hellbent on the Bell family’s destruction. The family account told through realistic and stylish reenactments are far from cheesy. They tell the Bell family story between breathless moments and incredulous glances. Told in chapters, each segment increases the tension. Something tortured this family for five years, and Breedlove’s film documents each moment of the abuse.
Were the Bell’s really haunted? Only the Bells and their spirit know. We do know something terrible happened to the family, and the patriarch was killed. Whether it was a supernatural force or something all too humanly sinister, we will never know, but Breedlove’s film makes a strong case for the former. An interesting narrative from General Jackson details an investigation into the Bell Farm that ended in a retreat of the men after only one day. The soldiers had planned to stay a week but left early in fear. Little stories like this lend respectability to the legend that bolsters an already suspenseful retelling. Another creepy little nugget is the story of the Bell Witch is still taught in Tennessee schools today. Clearly, someone still believes.
Adrienne Breedlove produces the Mark Of The Bell Witch. Narration is expertly handled by Lauren Ashley Carter (Darlin’, Pod), with Zac Palmisano as the Director of Photography. Santino Vitale and SRV Films supplied VFX, and Brandon Dalo (The Mothman Legacy) provides an original eerie score that elevates the film. Amy Davies and Thomas Koosed are Elizabeth Bell and John Bell Sr, accompanied by Aaron Gascon, Sue Matzke, Grayden Nance, and Mark Matzke. Adrienne Breedlove lends her voice to the titular witch. Breedlove’s narrative direction is the standout here. He weaves together a story this never feels outdated, just frightening.
Make no mistake; this is not an amateur labor of love but a captivating documentary that is much scarier than you expect it to be. The Mark Of The Bell Witch is available December 15th, 2020, on DVD, Blu-Ray here, and streaming platforms Amazon Instant Video, Vimeo OnDemand, and VIDI Space . Catch the trailer here.