MANDRAKE on Shudder is a new horror movie from the UK. Described as crime drama meets folk horror, which is actually spot-on to sum it up. A lot of good in this despite a weak story. Read our full Mandrake movie review here!
MANDRAKE is a new Shudder horror movie from the UK, which is the perfect setting. Especially since the plot is based on folk horror and has a crime drama driving the plot forward.
The cast does a good job and there is a lot of positive to be said about parts of the movie. As a whole, however, the story is was drags it down. We just sort of land in this very gloomy town and experience moments while never truly getting under the skin of anything.
Continue reading our Mandrake movie review below. You can find it on Shudder from November 10, 2022.
The folklore horror meets crime drama hybrid
In Mandrake, we meet probation officer Cathy Madden (Deirdre Mullins). She takes on the task of rehabilitating the notorious killer known in town as “Bloody Mary”. Her name is Mary Laidlaw (Derbhle Crotty) and Cathy volunteers to be her probation officer when it’s obvious no one else wants to.
“Bloody Mary” is returning to society after having spent twenty years in jail. Despite always having believed that everyone deserves a second chance, Mary tests her conviction. Especially when two children disappear near Mary’s farm.
Deirdre Mullins (Tank 432) does an excellent job at portraying probation officer Cathy Madden, but she isn’t given enough backstory to explore. Or rather, it’s there but always in the background. This is a recurring problem for a horror movie that is as character-driven as this folklore meets crime horror-hybrid is.
What is a Mandrake?
The mandrake is actually a very real plant that consists of forked roots. The roots of the mandrake can resemble the legs of a human body. Also, it’s a known magical plant, which has more to do with its medicinal and psychoactive properties than “just” the way it looks.
Or rather, the humanlike-look and “magical” properties of the mandrake combined, are probably what has resulted in the various myths and legends associated with it. Mostly a pagan tradition, but it has been used throughout the world as a medicinal plant.
Most Harry Potter fans will know what a Mandrake is since it’s featured in memorable moments. I certainly remember it from the Harry Potter movie where a mandrake is pulled out of the ground and lets out a blood-curdling scream.
All of this is also why it became a part of the Harry Potter universe. For the record, Mandrake on Shudder opens with a scene that comes across as a straight-up horror version of a Harry Potter moment.
Watch Mandrake on Shudder!
The new horror movie from the United Kingdom was directed by Lynne Davison. She’s been doing mostly short films in the past and after watching her work here, I’m excited about what’s to come from her. The style and tone of Mandrake are what kept me engaged all along.
The story, however, just never really took off or managed to connect all the dots for me. I think it’s due to the characters being largely underdeveloped. We get a “slice of life” in this rural town at a moment when things go wrong. But I never connect much to any character before the story moves on to something else.
It’s a shame because I believe screenwriter Matt Harvey can do better. Also, there is potential in the delicious horror tone set by director Lynne Davison. Also, don’t get me wrong, you should still watch Mandrake on Shudder. I just kept waiting for it to take off and it never did.
Mandrake premieres on Shudder on November 10, 2022.
Director: Lynne Davison
Writer: Matt Harvey
Cast: Deirdre Mullins, Paul Kennedy, Derbhle Crotty, Seamus O’Hara, Nigel O’Neill, Roisin Gallagher, Jude Hill
Mandrake follows probation officer Cathy Madden, who is given the task of rehabilitating notorious killer ‘Bloody’ Mary Laidlaw back into society after twenty years of jail. Cathy has always believed that every client deserves a shot at redemption, but her beliefs are firmly tested when two children disappear near Mary’s farm.