The familiar cinematic tropes of the supernatural and time-travel collide in this ingeniously unique indie film from writer/director (and star) Scott Dunn, as a door to the ‘other side’ is unwittingly opened at the same time as a very significant box of Mandao breakfast serial.
It’s Jackson (Sean McBride) who opens the box while on the search for food after crawling out of the tent he’s erected in the living room of his Uncle Jay (Dunn, who is two years his junior). That box, however, was the last part of Jay’s deceased father’s serial company’s legacy, and opening it seems to unleash a spiritual power that he never knew he possessed; astral projection.
As Jackson tries to make amends with his uncle and his photosensitive ex, Maeve (Marisa Hood), on the eve of Halloween, Jay begins to get a handle on his new ability with the help of his spiritual cousin Andy (the gloriously camp Sean Liang). When a nearby ghost asks Jay for help by travelling back in time to stop his death, things start to get really weird. And that’s before they discover who the killer is! Then things get really, really weird.
There is a ton of stuff to love here. The passion and creativity poured into this production really raises the bar. Filmed on a tight budget, this fact is barely visible and when it is, it’s forgotten quickly as the loveable characters bumble their way through a plot that cleverly mixes The Butterfly Effect with a host of other genres.
You’d be forgiven for making comparisons between this (Dunn’s second feature) and Kevin Smith’s early films. Although the razor-sharp pop-culture wit of Smith’s films isn’t necessarily evident, the celebration of indie storytelling most certainly is, as are the likeably ‘real’ characters and the circumstances which are sometimes more odd than the supernatural storyline itself.
Supernatural cereal packets, ghosts, time travel, astral projection and yes, even vampires are seamlessly sewed into a film that has instant cult classic written all over it. Mandao of the Dead also unmistakably propels Dunn forward as a filmmaker to keep a very close eye on.
MANDAO OF THE DEAD / CERT: UNRATED / DIRECTOR: SCOTT DUNN / SCREENPLAY: SCOTT DUNN / STARRING: SCOTT DUNN, ALEXANDRE CHEN, SAMARA KOHNE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW