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the mark of the bell witch

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‘The Mark of the Bell Witch’ review: An exploration of one of America’s oldest ghost stories

An old ghost tale brought to life.

The Mark of the Bell Witch from director Seth Breedlove is as much a horror movie as it is a documentary. There are the jump scares, escalating incidents as the haunting becomes more malevolent, and things that go bump in the night. Those watching can be forgiven for thinking it is a horror movie after seeing its chilling opening.

Shortly after the cold open, it becomes clear this will also be a history lesson. There are interviews with folklorists and historians to provide atmosphere. Camera shots from around current day Adams, Tennessee give everything more flavor. This mix of black and white cutscenes adds to the fear factor of the film. The mix of genres makes The Mark of the Bell Witch an interesting watch.

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The Bell Witch Haunting occurred between 1817-1821. Along with attacking the titular family, it also affected the entire Adams area. The story is well known in Southern folklore, but is relatively unknown in popular culture. Breedlove has a explored cryptids and UFOs in the past. At times, this has has touched on the supernatural. The Mark of the Bell Witch marks the first time he has tackled a purely ghostly subject, however.

As usual, Breedlove does an excellent job of covering all sides of the story. The Mark of the Bell Witch does not just tell one version of the haunting. This is an smart choice since the hauntings took place two centuries ago. Naturally, there will be many versions of the tale. By adding different stories, Breedlove adds a richness to the story he is telling.

The Mark of the Bell Witch presents many different takes on the legend. Though there is a common thread, the interviews sometimes conflict. Including them gives more insight into the region and belief systems. It is a nice way of expanding on the story’s tight focus. The film’s title takes on a whole new meaning as it progresses.

As is usual the case with a Seth Breedlove film, there is a genuine quality to The Mark of the Bell Witch. The documentary is not trying to convince anyone. to believe in the events depicted. The point is to be informative and entertaining.  The always dependable Lauren Ashley Carter provides narration in an excellent retelling of an overlooked piece of American folklore.

The Mark of the Bell Witch comes to HD Digital December 15

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