Reality Entertainment // 2010 // 75 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Roman Martel (Retired) // August 27th, 2010
After millennia of misunderstanding and confusion, the forces of magic are finally given a chance to explain themselves. I think the forces of magic need a better agent.
Since the beginning, humankind has struggled to explain the world around them and exert some kind of control over that world. Myths and legends sprang up explaining why it rains, why the earth shakes and why the moon changes shape. Tales of humans who were able to control the uncontrollable sprang up. From those stories emerged actual people who claimed to have powers and used them to help and hinder others. They go by many names, shamans, holy-men, priests, politicians, computer programmers, scientists and marketing executives.
Hey, don't look at me that way, that's what this documentary said.
The story and concept at the heart of this DVD is interesting. "The Occult: The Truth Behind the Word" describes how belief in animism, the concept that everything on Earth has a spirit is linked to all other things, evolved into the idea of magic. It provides a history of how magic was originally viewed with wonder and respect and how it was turned into something synonymous with evil. It concludes with the current state of magic and how it fits in to a society that uses science and data to explain the world and exert control over it.
Unfortunately, "The Occult" isn't meant for people looking for more information about the concept of magic and its evolution. It's meant to rally the believers and reinforce their beliefs. It projects the opinion that its views about magic are correct and everyone else is dumb and repressed. This is not a documentary; it's an opinion piece for those who already believe.
What is really annoying about this DVD is that there are some interesting moments buried under the propaganda and flash. But for every informative part of an interview, or enlightening bit of narration there are numerous forces that ruin the experience. And no, these aren't demonic forces, its just poor documentary construction and techniques
Take the interviews. Both Sheena McDonagh and Philip Gardiner make some great points and reveal some good information. But these interviews are poorly edited and badly filmed. The music playing behind these interviews is mixed so loudly that it's distracting. I found myself dreading the interview segments and checking my clock to see how long they'd been droning on. The finale interview with the mysterious Doc P sounds like it was filmed in a noisy pub, rendering it inaudible and pointless.
The rest of "The Occult" consists of imagery swimming across the screen while a narrator reads his script and music blares in the background. The narrator does a poor job, mispronouncing words in a stilted and ponderous manner. The script does him no favors with sentences that are badly constructed or too elaborate for a vocal delivery.
What you see during these segments consists mostly of old photos, public domain footage and low budget computer graphics. The overall effect is like watching a screensaver with bad narration. Some of the images baffle me. The DVD goes out of its way to state that magic is not evil. It's a force that can be used for many purposes. But we keep seeing images of flames, demons and the devil surrounded by mystical symbols. Talk about mixed messages.
I feel bad about trashing what is obviously a low budget production made by people who are passionate about the subject. You can feel the need to be understood and the anger at being looked down on. The creators wanted to say something here. But how you deliver your message in a documentary is important. What we get is so badly done that most casual viewers are going to get bored and annoyed very quickly. Those already interested in magic and the occult won't find too much new material here. So who is the intended audience for this DVD? Only the spirits know for sure.
The feature is presented in anamorphic widescreen with stereo sound. Extras include a couple music videos made by the creators of the program and featuring songs used in it. You also get trailers for other documentaries from Reality films.
Dark forces did not influence my verdict, its all based on quality.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Reality Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Music Videos