Mandao of the Dead is a bizarre and unusual independent film. Directed by Scott Dunn, the film follows Jay Mandao who on Halloween night discovers he has the ability to astral project when asleep. After learning he has these powers, he embarks on a quest to resurrect his deadbeat “nephew’s” love rival from death. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this film and I must admit my hopes were not high. I was, however, pleasantly surprised with it. While slow to start, once Mandao of the Dead gets moving it is a highly enjoyable ride.
The performances were quite good all round. The character of Jackson was particularly fun to watch. His absolute unwavering deadbeat wastoid persona coupled with a desire to be loved makes his interactions with Jay, his “uncle” quite interesting and the dynamic between them is part of what makes this film so enjoyable. The characters of Darth and Fer were also portrayed quite well with them mostly feeling realistic and believable. The antagonist of this film is Maeve, Jackson’s ex-girlfriend and pseudo-vampire psychopath.
The bulk of the plot sees Jackson and Jay attempting to reverse her murder of Darth via Jay’s astral projecting abilities. Maeve is probably the weakest portrayal here, as she doesn’t come off as natural as the rest of the cast and feels like she is largely reading lines without much thought as to her character overall. The cinematography is also a highlight as the film is lit quite nicely and atmospherically. The camera angles used are fairly standard, but there are a few interesting ones peppered throughout. The film’s biggest weakness as with many indie films is the budget.
While the more supernatural elements of the film perhaps could have benefitted from an increase in budget the film still works without it as astral projection isn’t the most ostentatious concept. The humorous aspects of the film are also good, with the interactions and idiosyncrasies of the characters being more amusing than the few actual jokes.
Verdict: Overall, I would give Mandao of the Dead a 7.5 out of 10 for being a fun, small scale journey from a cast and crew with great aptitude and potential.
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