An adventurer named Darren McCall leads an expedition into the South American jungles in search of a legendary dagger thought to be buried in recently discovered ancient burial ground. Together with a pair of local guides and two archeologists, McCall finds the tomb that houses the fabled artifact. When their wealthy benefactor confirms it is the relic they’re searching for, he instructs them to remove it from the tomb and bring it back to the states; however, once the dagger is plucked from the heart of the corpse in the stone coffin, a vicious bloodthirsty plant monster is released. The group soon finds themselves trapped between the hungry beast and an ancient civilization committed to keeping the monster entombed and any knowledge of its existence from ever reaching the mainland.
Mandrake is an above average adventure, fantasy, horror film from SyFy with an engaging cast, straightforward plot and an interesting monster to boot. The jungle locations keep the story plausible and the threat contained. The film benefits from multiple internal struggles and a corrupt benefactor that keeps causing trouble. The script keeps the silly romance angles to a minimum and concentrates on the jungle menaces. The CGI effects are obvious but fitting for the story, creating a series of vine attacks and the large mandrake monster as well. The best thing Mandrake has going for it is its lead that almost single-handedly holds the film together. Mandrake is a perfect film to waste a Saturday afternoon on SyFy that will keep you entertained and amused.
Max Martini makes an exciting lead and brings a great deal of strength and composure to the movie. His gravelly voice and gruff confidence allows for a character that is at home roughing it through the jungle dealing with angry natives and flesh eating vegetation. Mostly seen in television programs such as Castle, CSI, 24 and Hawaii Five-O, Martini has the right mix of talent and physique to carry the type of films typical for the SyFy network. Mandrake benefits greatly from having Martini in the lead role.
The rest of the cast does their best to keep up with Martini. Jon Mack plays Carla Manning, the archaeologist specializing in South American history. Nick Gomez has fun with his character Santiago Zavala who starts out a little shady but ends up a hero alongside Darren and Carla. Benito Martinez overplays the wealthy Archaeologist Harry Vargas to the point of parody but somehow it works. Unfortunately the men cast as the ancient South American tribe don’t feel as authentic as they should once the tribal masks are removed. Everyone else is basically plant monster bait and bring very little extraordinary to the film, but they also never bring anything detrimental to the movie either. All in all, it’s a good cast that serves the film well.
Mandrake is high on adventure, but it is also a monster movie and the plant monster in Mandrake is a fun one to watch. Not much more than a giant walking tree, it looks impressive for what it is and the CGI effects are strong enough to carry it through. It won’t produce too many nightmares but it might bring a smile or too. The creature is light weight monster fun and perfect fodder for a Saturday afternoon matinee. The film also is full of vines and attacks with television violence and gore that elevate the excitement and fun from time to time. When the monster wraps up its victims from head to toe with vines and then proceeds to pull those unfortunate souls in half, it’s shocking and gruesome but not overdone. Mandrake confines the locations to the jungle surrounding which help keep the effects from losing their flair and becoming too silly. The success of a movie like this is how watchable the monster is and Mandrake serves up a delightful creature, fun to watch.
Mandrake is light on atmosphere and horror, but makes up for it in adventure and action as best it can. A fun monster and a strong lead keep everything from falling apart and help create an entertaining light film perfect for a Saturday afternoon. Mandrake is one of the more enjoyable SyFy films that doesn’t have a giant snake, shark, octopus or other oversized creature. Not ground breaking by any means and not a memorable as it would like to be, Mandrake is harmless fun and provide a good time.
2.5 out of 5