Director: Lynne Davison
Writer: Matt Harvey
Starring: Deidre Mullins, Derbhle Crotty, Paul Kennedy, Seamus O’Hara, Nigel O’Neill, Ian Beattie, Jude Hill, Paul Mallon
Mandrake, which is directed by Lynne Davison and written by Matt Harvey, is a new folklore horror. A small community is rocked as ‘Bloody’ Mary (Derbhle Crotty) is released from prison, and shortly afterwards two children go missing. Mary was sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering her husband. The hole community is searching for the children, but eyes quickly turn to Mary.
The film is a mix between recent folklore horror films, such as In The Earth, as well as classic British Dramas. The film follows Mary’s probation officer Cathy (Deidre Mullins), who’s dealing with a parolee who has feelings for her, her ex-husband having a new child with his partner, as well as trying to look after her ill son, Luke (who is played by Belfast’s Jude Hill).
We get to spend a lot of the early part of the film getting to know Cathy and getting invested in her life, which makes the horror work so much better. There’s a great mix of drama and horror in the film and it works on both levels.
When the horror starts, it’s really unsettling and gets under your skin. It’s not the most graphic or gruesome of films, but you really feel it. It’s absolutely chilling to watch. It’s stomach churning. It only works so well because you care about Cathy as a character. You want her to survive, which is a testament to Deidre Mullins’s strong performance.
Debrhle Crotty is also excellent as Mary, making the witch character feel more interesting to watch. When we first meet her, she’s isolated from society, reduced to a story people tell children to scare them. There’s a distrust to everyone she comes across. There’s also a more sinister side as she seems to read people’s minds. It’s only small pieces of information she gives people, but it perfectly creates a suspenseful atmosphere as the film builds up in the first half.
Overall Mandrake works really well as a character driven horror. It’s a slow-burn chiller, that will leave you feeling unsettled long after the film is over.
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