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Mandao of the Dead Review

January 18, 2019 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Mandao of the Dead
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Mandao of the Dead Review  

Mandao of the Dead Review

Scott Dunn– Jay Mandao
Sean McBride– Jackson
David Gallegos– Darth
Gina Gomez– Fer
Marisa Hood– Maeve
Sean Liang– Cousin Andy
Alexandre Chen– Raymond Mandao
Erin Leigh Neumeyer– Mrs. Mandao

Directed by Scott Dunn
Screenplay by Scott Dunn

Distributed by Mandao Films

Not Rated
Runtime– 74 minutes

Rent or buy it here


Mandao of the Dead, written by, directed by, and starring Scott Dunn, is a nifty little horror comedy that’s probably a little too unassuming for its own good. It actually feels like a sequel to something, although, in reality, it’s an original piece. I really thought that, based on the title, that the movie was going to be some sort of low budget zombie comedy. I mean, “of the Dead” is in the title. How the heck is that not a zombie movie? Well, instead of being a low budget zombie movie, Mandao of the Dead deals with the supernatural and astral projection, which is, as far as I can tell, the ability to see and interact with ghosts and spirits and shit.

Dunn is Jay Mandao, a slacker who tries to live a quiet life while subsisting on his father’s cereal fortune (apparently Jay’s father ran a big deal cereal company that produced a cereal called Mandaos). One Halloween eve, Jay’s life is upended when his adult nephew-in-law Jackson (Sean McBride) shows up because he has nowhere else to live. Jackson, while a nice guy and all, is also incredibly annoying, and Jay doesn’t want him in his apartment. But, since Jackson is family, in a way, Jay can’t exactly turn him away for very long. After all, family is supposed to take care of family.

So what brought on Jackson’s sudden need to bunk with his uncle? Jackson went to see his ex-girlfriend Maeve (Marisa Hood) in an attempt to reconcile, but she wants nothing to do with him. Maeve’s rejection hurts him, obviously, and Jackson needs some help, but will he actually get it from Jay? Is Jay capable of delivering that kind of help?

Now, while all of that is going on, Jay is experiencing weird dreams that he can’t explain and interfere with his sleep. Jay tries to get help from his cousin Andy (Sean Liang), a young man that dabbles in the supernatural or some such. Andy gives Jay a special potion to take that will, maybe, help him sleep. Jay takes the potion multiple times, and, unfortunately, all the potion seems to do is make Jay’s weird dreams more vivid and, well, weirder.

And so Halloween happens, there’s a party, Jay has another weird dream, and Jackson sort of makes friends with a female Uber driver (Fer, as played by Gina Gomez), and Jay and Jackson’s sort of friend Darth (David Gallegos) suddenly goes missing. What the hell is going on here?

Darth does, eventually, show up, but for some reason only Jay can see him. Why? Well, Darth is dead, and his body is stashed away under a tarp in the garage (or guest house or whatever the hell it is). What happened? Who would want to kill Darth?

Well, I’ll tell you that Jay can see and interact with Darth because of his innate astral projection abilities. I won’t tell you who or what killed Darth, though, because finding out what the heck is really going on is the fun of the last half or so of Mandao of the Dead. The first half is all character development, although, truthfully, I’m not sure the story needed to spend that much time on who the various characters are. The characters are distinct enough to where, after a few minutes, we know who they are (I think that’s why the movie feels like a sequel to something, because I felt like I knew who these people were very quickly. That’s how sequels work. A very short intro to the characters we already know from a previous story and then the plot begins).

Now, that isn’t to say that the build-up of the various characters isn’t interesting. It is. Dunn, McBride, Gallegos, and Gomez are terrific and have real chemistry as a group. Liang isn’t part of the group but he’s good, too, interacting with Dunn. The only characters that aren’t all that captivating are Jay’s parents (played by Alexandre Chen and Erin Leigh Neumeyer) and most of the stuff in Jay’s dreams where we see Jay as a kid. That stuff is well done, it’s just not as entertaining as the search for Darth’s killer.

The movie has a low key feel to it, even in the dream and supernatural sequences. You don’t see that in most supernatural stories, even when they’re kind of quirky. The low key feel also keeps the story grounded and focused. The world isn’t going to end if Darth’s killer isn’t found. It will suck if it doesn’t happen but the sky won’t fall and the ground won’t open up. It’s all a little more personal and small.

As I said, the cast is fantastic. Scott Dunn does a great job as the slacker guy with the weird supernatural abilities. He doesn’t seem like the kind of guy that will end up the hero of any story, and yet he rises to the occasion here. It’s almost inspiring, in a way. Sean McBride is hilarious as Jackson. Jackson is a nice guy but he also has a frustrating personality that grates on you the longer you hang around with him. He’s also oblivious to how frustrating he can be (that’s why he went to go see Maeve). David Gallegos is funny, too, as Darth, but in a different way. And Gina Gomez, while not quite the “straight man” to all of the craziness, manages to handle the group dynamic well despite not becoming a part of the group until later.

As for Marisa Hood, man, she doesn’t look as pale as the movie wants us to believe. She really doesn’t.

Mandao of the Dead is a good, quirky, little horror comedy movie. It’s a little too weird, maybe, for its own good, and it feels like a sequel to something eventhough it isn’t, but it’s still worth checking out. It has a great cast, and it’s kind of fun. It’s worth your 74 minutes.

See Mandao of the Dead. See it, see it, see it. It’s currently available to buy or rent on Amazon and will be available on iTunes starting in February 2019, so be on the lookout for that.


So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: It depends on how you want to take the plot.

Explosions: None.

Nudity?: None.

Doobage: A guy sleeping in a tent, talk of Vaseline, cereal hooey, sidewalk walking, blood in the toilet, attempted backyard camping, multiple Halloween decorations, a neck therapy pump, multiple weird dreams, a ghost decoration with spotty lights, breakfast awkward dancing, ceremony hooey, a sleep potion, a weird green light, more weird dreams, a phone conversation, a total lack of employment, bed sniffing, a pitcher of blood in the fridge for some reason, face slapping, throat slitting, multiple flashbacks, ghosts that complain about not being able to eat anymore, a front yard fight, arm stabbing, girl fight with strangulation, chair bondage, and a mega portal.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: October 30th, a wind-up toy inside a cereal box, someone destroying a tent with a broom, talk of a burrito, Nosferatu on TV, cereal eating, Halloween, a cheese plate, bullshit about astral projection, November 1st, EVP bullshit, a Vulcan nerve pinch, and sleeping on the couch.

Best lines: “What are you doing, Jackson?,” “I just wanted some cereal,” “Jackson, we broke up. It wasn’t temporary,” “How’s Mom? My sister is not your Mom!,” “That was really insensitive,” “Oh, this is fucking bullshit!,” “Dude, we’re cousins,” “You let a guest into my bathroom and she pooped. What are we going to do about that?,” “Hey, Jackson. Nice costume,” “I didn’t think people could see you if you astral projected?,” “Why does your finger smell like that? The toilet paper ripped,” “Wait, you’re his uncle?,” “I am dead. Yep,” “What the fuck is going on?,” “You sleep through anything, don’t be a dickhead,” “I’m dead, Uncle Jay,” “Oh, you guys had sex? No, she started stabbing,” “Do I know you from somewhere?,” “What are you doing? Why are you stabbing people?,” “I think he needs to go to the hospital,” and “Will you stop shocking me?”

The final score: review Good
The 411
Mandao of the Dead is a nifty low budget horror comedy that may be a little too weird for its own good. Maybe. It has a terrific cast and sharp dialogue, which is what makes watching the 74 minute movie such a pleasure. It does take a little while to get going in terms of its plot, but it’s all worth it. The supernatural aspects of the story are bizarre but they work. I just want you to know, though, that Mandao of the Dead is not a zombie movie. The title suggests it is, but, nah, it isn’t. I look forward to whatever writer/director/star Scott Dunn has in store for us next. See Mandao of the Dead. It’s currently available to rent or buy on Amazon and will be available on iTunes in February 2019.