Originally screened in 2007, Marked is a tale of the paranormal that blends the supernatural, namely ghosts and their accoutrements, and the occult, namely forbidden books and the cults that apply them. Relatively bloodless and not very suspenseful, the movie does present some interesting ideas that further developed would have made for an intriguing story. However, writer-editor-director Dustin Voigt falls back on a cliché structure during the film’s final reel, leading to the typical final-haunt climax that makes for a tedious and frustrating end to a movie that held out a little promise.
Marked begins with a stylized rape attempt by one Jake Matthews (Tony Suraci). The victim is Diella (Tara Carroll), who manages to escape from Matthews and flees outside her own home. However, Diella’s father intercedes, stabbing Matthews in the neck with a pencil. Before Matthews dies of the wound, he kills Diella’s father and manages to make it outside also, where he “marks” Diella (his eyes and sockets turn black) before expiring.
Years later, Diella is still struggling with overcoming her feelings over that fateful night. She has sought the services of a college professor by the name of Dr. Frederickson (Mark Colson), who has told her that she must prove the existence of ghosts before she can banish her own. To do this, Diella has joined a group of paranormal investigators. This motley crew includes Marcus (Sam Sarpong), Danny “D”) Rafael Rios), and Amanda (Samantha Alarcon). Shadowing the groups is Diella’s alcoholic brother, Mitch (Samuel Child), a skeptic and pain in the ass.
A sinister character, Dr. Frederickson is slowly guiding Diella without her knowledge. The good professor sends her and the team to the home of Amelia Gershom (Pepper Jay), and it is here that Diella finally discovers that she is indeed being haunted by the ghost of Jake Matthews. What she does not know is that Frederickson and others in the community are members of an ancient cult. This cult is using a book known as the “Apococryph” in an attempt to make Jake Matthews flesh again. To become flesh, he must kill Diella in the house in which he died.
The movie clips along during the false climax, which has Diella and the paranormal investigators do battle with Jake Matthews. Jake begins to manifest in the flesh, dispatching ghost hunters in his wake. Of course, it is Mitch who sacrifices himself to save his sister, with Jake trapped inside the house with no way to continue his physical existence.
However, the film does not end here. Rather, a second coda has Diella in an insane asylum—the same asylum Jake time in. The final scene has Jake manifesting in front of Diella—and this time there is no escape.
Although a flawed film, I rather enjoyed various elements of Marked. One refreshing element of the movie was its character suite. Rather than the typical, annoying teenagers found in so many horror flicks, the characters in this movie, although still young, were all quite likable, with the actors fleshing out their parts as best they could. The only character who is annoying is Mitch, and even he has redeeming qualities and reasons to be annoying. The three-dimensional approach to characterization must be lauded, as it makes this movie tolerable.
Marked also has some interesting ideas, some of which feel as they come from the works of H.P. Lovecraft. The terrible tome, the idea of resurrection through murder, an ancient cult trapped within their own horrors, and a hideous central villain are all elements found in Lovecraft’s fiction; horror freaks will find such elements to their liking and owe themselves at least on viewing of Marked for this reason.
However, horror fans will not appreciate that writer-director Voigt did not do his homework when developing Marked. For example, an “Apococryph” is not a book but rather a type of book. The Seven Deadly Sins did not come into being but rather were developed by man himself (there are various early sources, but most cite the monk Evagrius Ponticus as the source). These and other mistakes detract from the film, particularly as one of the lead characters is a college professor.
The principal problem with the movie is that it lacks any tension or suspense. The movie is also relatively tame when it comes to the kills, using some special effects when Jake tears out the hearts and spines of his victims. There are the usual jump scares and overreliance on musical stings to make people jump, but there is little skill demonstrating in evoking actual tension or fear.
Marked is worth a look for those willing to overlook things to enjoy some fresh ideas put on the screen, but those looking for knuckle-buster tension or outright horror should look elsewhere.