How One Stephen King Movie Influenced Mark Tonderai’s Spell

Omari Hardwick as Marquis T. Woods in Spell (2020)

When it comes to Spell, Mark Tonderai tells an eerie story that features more than a few uneasy moments. The filmmaker, whose work includes film and TV credits like House at the End of the Street and Locke & Key, is more than well versed in the world of supernatural thrillers and has a love and appreciation for them as well. When approaching Spell, he drew from a number of key sources, but there was one particular Stephen King film adaptation that had a particularly significant influence on Tonderai’s own movie.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Mark Tonderai about his work on Spell, during which he explained that Rob Reiner’s film adaptation of Stephen King’s Misery had an impact on the movie. This was particularly clear through the film’s numerous Easter eggs:

Misery obviously is one, and I give love to it in the film. The office that Marquis works at, if you watch the film, there’s a tracking shot that sort of goes on the wall, and you see the name of the law firm, and it’s Woods and Sheldon. And poor Sheldon was the part that James Caan played in Misery. And you know, the shot of the penguin, because Annie Wilkes used to collect these little penguin figurines. And so, I’ve given love to it, but it’s stupid not to do that.

There are plenty of similarities between Spell and Misery, as both center on men who are fighting to survive, both physically and mentally, after experiencing unexpected accidents. Tonderai does an effective job of laying these Easter eggs through the film and paying homage to Reiner’s classic movie.

Mark Tonderai also shared with me that he looked to a number of other films for inspiration as well. Angel Heart, the 1987 supernatural thrill from Alan Parker, is also alluded to in the film with a quick Easter egg. He also looked to movies like Rosemary’s Baby and Deliverance for inspiration. The director believes it’s important to pay tribute to the films that have come before, especially since the audience is usually savvy when it comes to recognizing any sort of homage:

The audience is very smart, they know. They know that obviously you’ve got the DNA of this, the DNA of that. So if you ignore it, I think you’re doing a disservice to them. I think people in the audience will get a kick out of it.

Spell tells the story of Marquis T. Woods (Omari Hardwick), a successful law firm partner, who is summoned for the funeral of his estranged father in rural Appalachia. However, as he and his family are flying through an intense storm, their plane is struck by lightning. Marquis wakes up alone in the attic of Ms. Eloise (Loretta Devine), who claims she can nurse the injured man back to health with a hoodoo figure made from his blood and skin. But during his stay, Marquis finds that there’s more to the woman and her family than meets the eye. Check out the trailer below:

It’s great to see that Mark Tonderai loves to honor the films that have come before, and it makes sense. Without the classics, modern filmmakers like himself wouldn’t have the firm foundation that they have for horror and suspense.

Spell is now available on premium VOD and digital platforms.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Covering superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. I eat more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.