Mark of the Devil – Mexico, 2020 – overview and reviews

 

Mark of the Devil is a 2020 Mexican supernatural horror feature film about two sisters that unleash an evil from an ancient book. A possessed priest wrestling with his own demons becomes their only salvation. The original title is La Marca del Demonio.

Directed and co-edited by Diego Cohen (Romina; México Bárbaro II; Honeymoon; Perdidos) from a screenplay written by Ruben Escalante Mendez (De las muertas), the movie stars Eduardo Noriega (The Devil’s Backbone; Open Your Eyes; Thesis), Eivaut Rischen, Arantza Ruiz, Omar Fierro and Nicolasa Ortíz Monasterio.

Review:

Clocking in at a tight 78-minutes, no-one could accuse Mark of the Devil of outstaying its welcome and during its short-running time the frenetic pace hardly ever lets up.

An opening scene depicts the attempted exorcism of a young boy, which causes him to seem to die violently. The bewhiskered old priest exorcist promptly just dumps the still twitching kid’s boy in a nearby garbage dump for the crows to peck at. Hardly an ecclesiastical way of disposing of a supposedly dead body but at least this provides director Diego Cohen with the opportunity to showcase the Mexican landscape via drone shots.

Thirty years later, in Mexico City, teenager Camila is learning about ancient languages, which will come in handy when she has to translate Aramaic later. Her mother is a Professor of Philology who suddenly receives the oldest manuscript she’s ever seen – and then casually takes it home to study it!

Camila and her sister Fernanda deduce that it looks like a Necronomicon written in Latin and they promptly read a passage which seems to immediately unleash evil. At a nightclub, Camila begins to manifest signs of possession by bashing another girl’s head against a wall. Back home, she zonks out till the next day. Predictably, there are soon signs of full-on possession with the prerequisite black eyes, retching, wandering around naked and swearing at her sis.

Graham Plowman (An English Haunting; Arthur & Merlin) provides a suitably portentous score that sometimes uses spaghetti western-type banjo cues to signal the arrival of black-clad Karl (Elvaut Rischen) who looks like he’s stepping in from Richard Stanley’s Dust Devil. That, or Constantine. Karl smokes Karloff brand cigarettes and performs cut-price exorcisms to purchase heroin for addicted Father Tomás (Eduardo Noriega).

When two muggers try to get the best of him, Karl reveals he also has supernatural powers by flying in the air at one of them… whom he is later seen eating! This is where the movie starts to get sillier and never stops. Dwelling any further on Karl’s cannibalistic present state and his past would provide unnecessary spoilers.

“>With her sibling now in the full throes of demonic possession, Fernanda enlists the Tomás’ assistance even though they both readily admit that the Necronomicon doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with Catholicism and exorcism with the priest asserting that “Hollywood movies are to blame for that.”

And yet, it transpires that increasingly black-eyed Karl is the only one that can save equally black-eyed Camila because she is possessed by Cthylla, daughter of Cthulhu, and he is possessed by Ythogtha, son of Cthulhu. Yes, it’s all Lovecraftian.

With Cohen’s sumptuous visuals and a more than competent cast, the movie is an entertaining watch, although it’s a wonder what anybody made of Ruben Escalante Mendez’s kitchen sink script during production – it even briefly harks back its 1973 blueprint with a brain scan scene. The plot gleefully drags in all the exorcism clichés we’ve come to expect and yet does so in a way that’s seemingly mocking this horror sub-genre.

And yet this clearly isn’t intended as a comedy, despite some mirthful moments that recall the kind of dopey dialogue and excesses reminiscent of Italian ‘70s rip-offs rather than more recent serious possession pics. Nonetheless, the chaotic final battle between good and evil is sure to put a smile on even the most jaded horror fan’s face.  

Netflix offers the option of either Spanish language with English subs or dubbed. While the original language version is always the superior choice, Mark of the Devil is so delightfully trashy it can be enjoyed either way.
Adrian J Smith, MOVIES & MANIA

Other reviews:

“The acting is good, way better than what you usually see in similar movies, which was a pleasant surprise. The mood, setting and music are also pretty good throughout the film; dark, haunting and gritty […] It felt a bit rushed and the story was left with enough holes to leave you annoyed…” Galdhr

” …my biggest problem with Mark of the Devil is the fact that it’s so damn serious. You are not making The Exorcist with all the horror and drama that it offered. No, we’re more along the lines of Evil Dead but you refuse to really go there with humor and over-the-top acting.” Heaven of Horror

Release:

Mark of the Devil has been released on Netflix in various territories such as the UK.

Cast and characters:

  • Eduardo Noriega … Tomás
  • Eivaut Rischen … Karl Nüni
  • Arantza Ruiz … Camila de la Cueva
  • Omar Fierro … Luis Miranda
  • Nicolasa Ortíz Monasterio … Fernanda de la Cueva
  • Dunia Alexandra … Dunia
  • Lumi Cavazos … Cecilia de la Cueva
  • Laura de Ita … Esperanza
  • Jorge Adrián Espíndola … Jorge
  • Charles W. Lake … Sacerdote
  • Mary Paz Mata … Guadalupe
  • Oliver Nava … Diego
  • Karen Haydé Payán … Adjunto
  • Juan José Reyes
  • Diego Escalona Zaragoza … Young Karl Nüni

Technical details:

  • 82 minutes
  • 4K
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35: 1

Related:

More exorcism movies

Notes:

This film should not be confused with the 1969 witch-hunting movie Mark of the Devil.

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