Main cast: Peter McEnery (Edwyn Rord), Georgina Hale (Stella), Emrys James (Dr Harris), Anthony Brown (Priest), Conrad Phillips (Dr Manders), Peter Birrel (Markham), James Duggan (Sampson), Andrew Bradford (Steve), James Curran (Pritchard), and Annie Dyson (Mrs Rord)
Director: Don Leaver
Awww, here is the final episode of the Hammer House of Horror anthology series, and at least they try to save the best for last. Try, that is.
Edwyn Rord works in the morgue, tending to the dead while being mostly ignored by his colleagues. At home, he has to endure the one-sided bitter ranting of his rather hard-of-hearing, overly-controlling mother. The only person who treats him like a person is Stella, who rents a room at his place. Stella, being a single mother, of course is viewed as an immoral ho by his mother, who forbids him to spend any time with her. It’s probably amazing how Edwyn hasn’t embarked on a killing spree all this while. At any rate, he just goes crazy.
Or is he? Our protagonist soon notices that the number nine is showing up everywhere. In people’s conversations. In signs and labels. He begins to see strange people wearing dark shades who seem to be tailing him. It’s obvious to him what is happening: Satan is coming, and it seems like only he is aware of this. Mind you, the neighborhood priest points out that six is more of the Devil’s preferred number, but Edwyn knows that even the priest is in Satan’s payroll – he spots some nines and multiples of nine on the church’s bulletin board oh OMG THE DEVIL HAS THEM TOO NOOOOO. He may have to get rid of the Antichrist baby himself… and the only baby he knows belongs to the nice lady renting the room at his place.
No, don’t worry. This episode doesn’t dare to go there, although it seems to be building up to that. That’s the biggest shame about The Mark of Satan: it has a very solid build-up and tension, with Peter McEnery putting up an excellent show as a man who may or may not be losing his damned mind. The pacing, for once, is solid without any obvious draggy, drawn-up filler scenes. Unfortunately, it opts to pick a denouement that is heavily foreshadowed early in the episode – hence it’s the most predictable and unimaginative denouement that the episode could opt to have. Instead of pushing the envelope, it opts to be safe in the most boring manner. Worse, the ending is so abrupt, it was if these people ran out of money and decided to just include the last episode they could film and just called it a wrap.
The Mark of Satan is a good episode all the way to its last few minutes. Which is a worse episode – one that is boring and bad from the start, or a good episode with a terrible payoff that makes you feel as if you’d been cheated? The latter hurts the most, that’s for sure, because of what it could have been but failed to be.