Mandrake: Review

Cathy Madden (Deidre Mullins) is a probations officer with a lot on her plate. On the one hand, she has a son with Cystic Fibrosis who she has to make sure is in the best of health. On the other hand, her work requires her to help rehabilitate a woman known as ‘Bloody’ Mary Laidlaw (Derbhle Crotty) who was imprisoned for two decades so that she can re-enter society.

However, during her time with Mary, two children go missing and the police suspect murder and so the hunt goes on, not only for there whereabouts, but for the killer. Although once Cathy lets her guard down with Mary, she starts to realise that murder is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what she’s capable of doing.

Mandrake is an Irish horror movie exclusive to Shudder directed by Lynne Davison and written by Matt Harvey. Part police procedural and part Lovecraftian horror, Mandrake seems to be a movie unfortunately split into two parts.

For the first half, the audience is introduced to Cathy, Mary and Cathy’s son and so there’s part of what’s going on in her personal life and part of what she does at work. This either seems to be a way of increasing tension or lulling the audience into a false sense of confidence as they may not know what Mary is about to do.

The second half consists of something far more supernatural and almost witchlike as Mary goes about doing terrible things to Cathy. The problem is that this build up feels rather unearned and very little is explained as to what Mary can and cannot do and why any of it is possible.

A movie such as Mandrake does show off the director’s potential as Davison seems capable of handling both police drama and extreme horror. It’s just that the script never really blends them together all that well.

There is also the bewildering sense that the audience has either been lied to or misled in some way because it seems to rely on torture porn and weird rituals so that it can appease the horror crowd. Also, less said about the ending the better.

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