[Review] ‘Mandao of the Dead’ Packs Heart and Humor into a Small Package
Doing horror comedy is a difficult balancing act. It’s easy to lose your way and wind up with a zany mess that deals exclusively in juvenile humor. If it goes the other way you can wind up with an unfunny dry mess. However, when done right, a horror premise can make for an excellent backdrop to a more lighthearted narrative because of how absurd the situation can be. Is “Mandao of the Dead” one of those rare films that manages to strike a good balance between the two genres? Or does it land harder on one side than the other?
“Mandao of the Dead” stars Scott Dunn as Jay Mandao, a recluse who is able to live a life of solitude thanks to the inheritance his father left him. He’s far from rich, but he’s comfortable enough to not really have to deal with the outside world. Unfortunately, his annoying 30 year old nephew (Sean McBride) and his newfound ability to astral project throw his life into turmoil. Now Jay is stuck using his abilities to save lives and stop a wannabe vampire.
Mandao’s plot moves at breakneck speed and is condensed into a short movie that clocks in at a brisk 74 minutes. And while I appreciate a movie that respects my time, I wish “Mandao of the Dead” had taken more time to breath. While the plot is concise and easy enough to follow, there are times that I wish the film had expanded upon ideas and given more meat to the character arcs. As is you feel like you get a sense of who the characters are and where the movie wants them to be, but instead of seeing that natural transition the arcs stutter forward until the characters get to their final destination.
But while the story lacks meat, the characters are dripping in personality. With every introduction of a character you get an immediate sense of who they are and what they’re about. The characters are incredibly well written and that writing is backed up with some great acting. Dunn himself displays fantastic comedic timing and great chemistry with his co-stars. Unfortunately the only weak spot among the characters is the primary antagonist. It’s no fault of the actress, as she does a wonderful job with what she has, but her character suffers from the aforementioned condensed plot.
As far as finding a balance between horror and comedy, “Mandao of the Dead” has it’s foot firmly planted in the comedy genre with horror elements serving as plot devices. Thankfully the comedy is genuine and well-crafted and doesn’t devolve into any gross out humor. It’s not the kind of humor that’ll have you laughing to the point of tears, instead I would say it has a more charming style. Its got the kind of humor you would hear tossed around between friends. It left me with a smile on my face throughout.
Ultimately I wouldn’t recommend this movie to anyone looking for strong horror elements, but if you want to have a good time and sit with a movie that will leave you feeling genuinely pleased “Mandao” will do the trick.