Friday, June 17, 2011

Mandrake (2010)

I gotta give it to the Sy-Fy Channel: when it comes to monsters, they aren't afraid to get creative to say the least. From mythical beings ("Wyvern") to mutations ("Mansquito") and other weird whats-its ("Sharktopus.") So, a movie about an ancient, walking tree that is awoken isn't that far fetched for this channel. Hence, the movie "Mandrake."

Under the orders of Harry Vargas (Benito Martinez from "The Shield" aka the best show ever made), Soldier of Fortune Sgt. McCall (Max Martini), archeologist Felicia (Betsy Russell, mostly known as Jigsaw's wife in the "Saw" movies*) and several others to go to the jungles to retrieve an infamous dagger from a burial ground. Well, after pulling it from the skeletal remains of a conquistador, bad events start to occur revolving around a long thought to be extinct tribe and the Mandrake tree.

Take "Predators", "Tremors", every stupid-white-people-anger-natives movie, and 1957's "From Hell It Came", and "Mandrake" is what you get-only nowhere near as fun as that sounds. To be fair, it isn't a worthless movie. None of the performances are bad per say (Martinez in particular is fun, though those hoping for "Aceveda vs. The Man Eating Tree" will be disappointed), the score by Jermaine Stegall is at least tolerable, the locations are great, the cinematography is fine, and the direction is at least standard. So yeah, little in this is offensively bad.

The thing though, is that it's a Sy-Fy Channel movie, which is a nice way of saying the whole thing is thoroughly average. While the performances aren't bad, the characters are all around dull and uninteresting. The gore and kills available are of the standard bad CGI level you get from movies like this. The mandrake itself has a neat design, but the effects feel inadequate. The events aren't really that exciting, and if you've seen any of the aforementioned movies (especially "Predators" and "Tremors"), none of this is going to feel fresh. Hell, if you've seen several Scy-Fy channel movies, you know what to expect from this-bad CGI, little effort being put in it, and a little self awareness.

It's nothing that made me angry, but I doubt I'll remember much of "Mandrake" in a few days. If it's on TV, then you could probably watch it, but you won't be recommending it to anyone either.

Rating: 4/10

*Before the movie menu, there was a trailer/ad for all of the "Saw" movies (obviously included to capitalize on the fact that Betsy Russell is in this movie.) You just know a few executives at Lionsgate wish they could have let the series continue.

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