Review: MANDAO OF THE DEAD (2018)
Jay Mandao (Scott Dunn who also wrote and directed MANDAO OF THE DEAD and its sequel MANDAO RETURNS) is, to put it mildly, a slacker. He lives off the modest checks from Mandaos the cereal his late father created. Somehow, he ends up taking care of his adult cousin by marriage Jackson (Sean McBride) who has even less ambition than he does.
However as Halloween is rolling around Jay gets an early treat, or maybe it’s a trick. He discovers he has the power of Astral Projection. As he’s finding this out, Maeve (Marisa Hood) Jackson’s ex who thinks she’s a vampire kills blood bank employee Darth (David Gallegos 2 HEADED SHARK ATTACK) when he fails to deliver any plasma. His ghost appears to Jay and asks him to use his talents to keep the murder from ever happening. But the only way to do that is to use Jackson’s continued obsession with Mauve. And that may not be such a bright idea.
Obviously, none of this is meant to be taken even remotely seriously. MANDAO OF THE DEAD is a slacker comedy dressed up for Halloween and it does a good job of making this unlikely mix of genres work. With a cast of characters that includes a hapless Uber driver (Gina Gomez) and Andy (Sean Liang), Jay’s expert in all things New Age cousin it sets itself up for success. Concentrating on the plot’s human element just seals the deal. It even manages some genuinely touching moments in the scenes between Jay and his late father Raymond (Alexandre Chen).
Shot for just $13,000, MANDAO OF THE DEAD is an excellent example of taking a solid script and using what’s available to get around budgetary issues. The clever use of footage and lighting to replace effects along with limiting the number of locations saved a lot. But, as noted before, crafting a script that didn’t rely on effects is the film’s strong point. Of course, those who need exotic locations and flashy effects will be turned off. Those who can enjoy microbudget films will be more than happy.
With a feeling that resembles JOHN DIES AT THE END filmed on the budget of DAVE MADE A MAZE, MANDAO OF THE DEAD is a fun afternoon’s watch. It’s currently available on Amazon Prime and will be coming to iTunes in February 2019. Keep updated on releases on other platforms at the film’s Facebook page.