Who doesn’t love a spooky story?
Seth Breedlove’s new documentary, THE MARK OF THE BELL WITCH, analyzes and unpacks one of the most famous pieces of folklore in the United States—the Bell Witch Haunting. Rooted in the rural town of Adams, Tennessee in the early 1800s, The Bell Witch haunting revolves around the Bell family and the malicious spirit that tormented them. The apparition often referred to and considered a poltergeist, reportedly responded to the name “Kate” or “Old Kate Batts” and focused much of its energy on the Bell family’s youngest daughter Betsy, as well as threatened to murder the patriarch, John Bell Sr.
As with most folkloric stories, the tale of the Bell Witch Haunting has evolved and changed over time. The version you hear is largely dependent on who you’re hearing it from, who told the story to that person, and so on and so forth. Hearing different versions of the same story is arguably the most interesting aspect of oral tradition.
THE MARK OF THE BELL WITCH explores this Southern tale of terror to the fullest. Throughout the documentary, the filmmaker’s interviews and consult with academics, folklorists, local historians, and tour guides as they go on a deep dive into the story.
And they really do dive deep. Breedlove and his crew explore the historical context surrounding the origins of the Bell Witch Haunting as well as the history (and religious background) of the family the spirit targeted. The intersection of gender and religion is discussed, as well as the culture of the Southern United States (at the time). They also explore how the Bell Witch Haunting influenced the area…and popular culture. That old horror trope about disturbed Native American burial grounds? That, my friends, comes from the Bell Witch Haunting.
Is the story true? Was there really an evil spirit haunting and harming the Bell family? Maybe? Possibly? Truthfully, the story is so delightfully creepy, it doesn’t matter one way or another if the events that unfolded were caused by the supernatural. THE MARK OF THE BELL WITCH is probably one of my favorite documentaries that I’ve seen in this cursed year of 2020. It’s thorough, well-researched, and the subject matter is interesting enough to keep the viewer engaged throughout the hour-and-a-half runtime…and also light enough so that the viewer doesn’t want to throw themselves down a well after watching it. In a way, it’s the perfect palate-cleanser after watching a documentary of a more sinister nature, like Baby God.
The only thing that I wasn’t crazy about was the use of dramatic reenactments, but that’s really just a matter of personal taste.
THE MARK OF THE BELL WITCH is now available to rent or own on Amazon Instant Video, Vimeo OnDemand, DVD, and VIDI Space. Blu-ray and DVD copies will be available exclusively from the Small Town Monsters Shop.