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Featured DVD Review: Mandrake

April 9th, 2011

Mandrake - Buy from Amazon

Mandrake is an original TV movie that first aired on SyFy on September 11th of last year. It's a TV movie about a killer plant. ... Well, I can at least take solace in the fact that the last few low-budget horror movies I've seen turned out better than expected. Maybe this one will continue the winning streak.

The Movie

The film focuses on a team of four people: Besty Russell plays Felicia, the anthropologist; Wayne Pere plays Lin, the archeologist; Max Martini plays McCall, the soldier; and Santiago, the local guide. (Plus there's a group of random victims.) They are working for Harry Vargas, who has them heading off into the jungle looking for a mysterious danger that was once owned by a ruthless conquistador. It will be a dangerous mission, as not only is the location remote, but there is a civil war going on, there's natural dangers, and of course dangers that are unnatural.

The first part of their mission, find the dagger, goes really well. (About 15 minutes into the movie they already have it.) But almost immediately, there's a small tremor and something attacks the team. When the leader of the base camp hears the gun fire over the phone, she contacts her boss, Harry, and tells him there's a problem. Harry's convinced the team has stolen the dagger and decides to fly to the jungle and retrieve it himself.

What follows is 60 more minutes of people running around in the jungle being attacked by an unconvincing CG monster. To be fair, the design of the monster didn't look too bad and it looked sort of like a swamp monster / Treebeard cross. Actually, now that I think about it, it looks like the plant elementals from World of Warcraft. Unfortunately, the budget for the special effects was obviously a whole lot lower than it would be for a major theatrical release. Because of this, most of the time we didn't see the monster itself, just the jungle vines it controlled. This made most of the attacks very repetitive and this in turn made the movie feel padded. There was already too much wandering in the jungle for my taste. They may have been able to cut it in half and make the film an episode of an hour-long anthology show.

The acting was generally better than most similar movies, the plot wasn't bad. The dialogue was weak at times, but at least the plot wasn't forced along due to the stupid actions of the characters. For low expectations cinema, it's not bad. It's not good, even for a TV movie, but I've seen a lot worse.

The Extras

There are no extras on the DVD.

The Verdict

You don't go into a SyFy original movie and expect greatness. Mandrake certainly doesn't deliver greatness. It barely delivers adequate entertainment for a TV movie. If you are a fan of SyFy's original movies, then the DVD is worth checking out. But even then, a rental will be enough.

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Filed under: Video Review, Mandrake