December 14, 2020 The Mark of the Bell Witch (Documentary Review)
There are thousands of legends and tales of folklore in this world. For most, they seem to fade away over time. But for one town, Adams, Tennessee, there is one unforgettable legend, and on December 15th, 2020, the story is resurrected for the world to hear. The Mark of the Bell Witch will be available to rent or own through Amazon Instant Video and Vimeo On Demand, while DVD and Blu-ray will be available exclusively from the STM shop.
Produced by Small Town Monsters and directed by Seth Breedlove (Boggy Creek: The Truth Behind the Legend 2016, MOMO: The Missouri Monster 2019), The Mark of the Bell Witch will terrify her audience. The history of the Bell Witch dates back to 1817. Several years after Mr. John Bell, his wife, their six children and their slaves, moved to rural Adams, Tennessee. Horrifying claims were made by the family, claims such as knocking and scratching sounds on the walls and doors of their house. Further claims included mysterious, scary-looking creatures being seen on the property. These creatures included huge black birds, a hare that Mr. John shot at before it vanished into thin air, and a black, ferocious looking dog. The thing that stands out the most about the mysterious creatures is that one of the slaves, Dean, had seen the big black dog and took his axe to the dog’s head when the dog seemed to be ill toward Dean. The next night he saw the same dog, but this time, there were two heads!
After months of tormenting the family, particularly daughter Betsy, the entity that is now known as the Bell Witch had found her voice. With poor young Betsy having her hair pulled and being slapped so hard that she developed welts, the family had reached their limit. And that is when the witch spoke, claiming that she was the spirit of one Kate Batts. Though perhaps her most shocking statement was that she was there to kill John. Subsequently, the hellish torment lasted until 1820 when old John Bell finally died.
The Mark of the Bell Witch is a documentary film based on the first documented accounts of this so-called “witch.” The book with these accounts was published in 1894 by M. V. Ingram and titled The Bell Witch, which tells the story of the Bell family and the hell they suffered from a spirit, as the family preferred to call her. The film opens up with folklorist Brandon Barker, as well as local historian and Author Timothy Henson, at the John Bell Jr. cemetery where Bell’s youngest son, John Bell Jr., was buried along with his own family.
From there, the film dives into the history of Adams and the people. Interesting fact is that the film is split into chapters, and in these chapters the audience gets a few passages from Ingram’s book, delivered by Narrator Lauren Ashley Carter (Premium Rush 2012, Darlin’ 2019). These chapters take the audience through details of the alleged torment of the Bell family at the hands of the witch.
Also included in the documentary are reenactments of the story. The actors portraying the Bell family are great in their roles. Especially Amy Davies (MOMO: The Missouri Monster 2019), who perfectly depicts the innocence of the young Betsy “Elizabeth” Bell, and does a phenomenal job displaying just the right amount of fear of the Bell Witch. Another phenomenal character was without a doubt the bell witch/spirit, or, rather, the actress’ voice. Adrienne Breedlove (MOMO: The Missouri Monster 2019, The Trail of Bigfoot 2019) made great use of her phenomenal voice, giving the witch her eerie and sinister presence.
Each of the reenactments are filmed in black and white, which gives it that “back in the day” feel. It also builds tension for the scenes, making the scary moments more terrifying. The music done by Small Town Monsters’ go-to, Brandon Dalo (Boggy Creek Monster 2016, Terror In The Skies 2019), is what brings the intensity of the scares to these reenactments. One thing is for sure, the music will definitely put the fear in you if the Bell Witch herself does not.
Overall, the black and white mixed with the tension-filled music make this sinister documentary more scary than the Blair Witch herself. The acting is phenomenal and the theories about who or what the Bell Witch was are just as terrifying as they are interesting. As to the overall experience, it is one that should not be passed up. For this, Cryptic Rock feels that The Mark of the Bell Witch deserves a 5 out of 5 stars.