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Tuesday, January 1, 2019

MANDAO OF THE DEAD -- Movie Review by Porfle

The small-scale supernatural comedy MANDAO OF THE DEAD (2018) has a straightforward goal--to entertain us in its own low-key, unassuming way and give us a fun time that's dependent not on frenetic farce or flashy effects but a captivating story and interesting characters. 

Writer-director-star Scott Dunn gets right to business and achieves this goal with a sharp, concise script and direction that's brisk, economical, and efficient. 

He and the rest of the cast turn in performances that are up to the material as well.  Dunn stars as Jay Mandao, a young man living off the royalties from his late father's now-defunct cereal company, and Sean McBride is his ne'er-do-well step-nephew Jackson (who actually appears to be somewhat older than he).

Jackson's the classic unemployed slacker/sponge, living with his "Uncle" Jay in a tent in the living room. When Jay throws him out (temporarily), Jackson goes crawling for help to his ex-girlfriend Maeve (Marisa Hood), who, we later discover, thinks she's a vampire.

When Jackson surreptitiously opens up the last known box of "Mandao-O's" cereal for breakfast one morning, a series of events is set into motion during which Jay discovers that he suddenly has the ability of astral projection. 

While unsettling at first, things really turn serious when a dead guy named Darth (David Gallegos) pops up during an astral episode and implores Jay to help him.  It turns out that Jay has the power to travel back in time in astral form to before Darth was murdered and try to prevent it from happening.

Jackson gets involved, as does Jay's rotund cousin Andy (Sean Liang), also an astral traveler, and before long there's a complex chain reaction of dicey situations involving time travel, more murder, more vampirism, and other interesting plot developments which I found continually intriguing and engaging.

At times this circuitous, twisting storyline is reminiscent of such films as TIMECRIMES albeit less mindbending and more delightfully funny.  Still, writer-director Dunn keeps things pleasantly low-key and allows us to thoroughly enjoy what's going on without trying to whip up any fratboy belly laughs, slapstick, or shock. 

The supernatural angle is played for both fun and intrigue, with astral Jay trying to communicate with his taxi-driver friend Fer (Gina Gomez) first via her car radio and then by static-electric touch. 

Gallegos' "Darth" is especially interesting in his earnest quest to prevent his own murder, while McBride is the perfect foil for everyone else as happy-go-lucky Jackson.  As Maeve, Marisa Hood gives the story its darkest and most sinister element as her character grows increasingly ominous.

Don't expect a stampede of circus monkeys flying out of your TV when you watch MANDAO OF THE DEAD. Just settle in for an easygoing hour-and-a-half of spooky, brain-teasing fun and you're liable to find it time well-spent. 

Available Now Exclusively on Amazon Instant Video
Sci-Fi Horror Comedy to Haunt iTunes February 2019


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