Low budget horror films give a very particular impression. The acting is going to be bad, dialogue is going to be forced, and the plot is going to be practically nonexistent. If you go in with any expectations, chances are you will be disappointed.
There is a certain charm to them, however. Whether it is the understandably cheap production values or general weirdness, inexpensive horror films tend to find their audience. Despite not having the resources of their big budget counterparts, there is a genuineness and love to be found. This is the draw to movies such as They Look Like People.
When these movies fail, they fail hard. The faults lack any charm while they seem to be made less out of love and just because they could be. While they are not necessarily bad, they do come off as a waste of your time. Released in 2018, Mandao of the Dead is an inoffensive waste of time.
From the production crew to the cast, a lot of work goes into making a movie. Even the worst of films require lots of time and effort. There is more than enough to do without spreading oneself too thin.
A bad sign for many movies is when the writer, director, and star is the same person. This is usually due to budgetary reasons, but it does not take away from the fact it negatively impacts the movie. Scott Dunn is the writer, director, and stars in Mandao of the Dead.
Dunn arguably gives the best performance of the movie. He his over the top when the script calls for it and has some of the film’s best lines. Emotionally, however, his range is limited. Each line is delivered with an almost snarky attitude and seems to be delivered with biting sarcasm. Dunn’s acting lacks the charm seen from the zombie sluts or horny nerds of other horror films.
Dunn’s writing and directing are definitely affected, however. Mandao of the Dead is so obnoxious it becomes tiresome. The story involves time travel, astral projection, and talking to the dead. By the time vampirism enters, it is clear that Dunn is throwing out random ideas. There is never time to enjoy any one thing since the movie never settles for too long. Mixing genres is not easy in the best of situations and it does not work here.
Mandao of the Dead is also unfunny. Dunn’s comedy is of the “purple monkey dishwasher” variety. The majority of the jokes are a just random statements or actions. On occasion, this type of comedy can be funny, but it never works here. Characters make weird comparisons, use odd descriptors, and answer a Spanish speaker in Russian. It is supposed to be funny, but it sounds more like the characters are speaking gibberish.
Mandao of the Dead also suffers from weird edits. There are cuts throughout the movie that sometimes seem like they were done on accident. The pacing of the movie is odd as it initially makes one character seem like the protagonist before unexpectedly switching off to another. It never seems right, especially at the finale. Most noticeable is the lack of continuity when a character remarks they have the last of a certain product which is immediately followed with a comment from another character commenting on the royalty checks received from a product that is no longer being sold. Inconsistencies are part of what makes cheap horror movies so enduring, but here is just comes off as lazy.
Many low budget horror movies have large fan bases. They are cult classics that seem to earn a deeper appreciation with each viewing. Mandao of the Dead has earmarks of a charming cult classic. Unfortunately, it tries to hard to be silly while taking itself too seriously making for a forgettable experience.