Carl Sagan once said that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. So when someone asserts to have amazing powers or believes that they are born with special abilities, it is up to all of us to expect a skeptically high standard of substantiation. Whether intended or not, this truth surfaces as the main idea behind Scott Dunn’s latest horror film, Mandao of the Dead (2018). Starring Scott Dunn (as Jay Mandao), Sean McBride (as Jackson), and Marissa Hood (as Maeve), this light-hearted picture follows an unconventionally structured family as they struggle with domestic issues, love, breakups, life, death, and the spirit realm. Despite the film being billed as a horror-comedy, the film humorously and eloquently tackles a poignant topic for our modern society: What is proof?
The theme of proof is showcased in a variety of ways throughout the film by humor, smart dialog, situational irony, and the interplay between the characters’ actions. The plot takes on a more dream-like pace as the length of the film reflects the malaise that Jay and Jackson have to contend with on a daily basis without their own sense of purpose. The story could have been improved by omitting the sequences between Jay and his father, which seemed a bit like filler. In fact, the theme of proof would have been strengthened if these scenes were left on the cutting room floor. Despite this small setback, watching the film is a fun experience, and I am not the only one who thinks so.
Mandao of the Dead is making quite a splash on the internet with high ratings on IMDB and a good review on Rotten Tomatoes. It is true that the film is masterfully composed, and the writing is very funny and smart. However, the reason this film is becoming a hit is that it has a perspective and a clear voice. This message challenges us to raise our definition of evidence in a world gone crazy with allegations of fake news, social media hype, and fantastical claims of indefensible positions.
Dunn’s film begs to be watched more than once, and after the fun of the first viewing subsides, go ahead and watch it again. Look for moments that require the characters to actually prove their claims or experiences. From stealing cereal to speaking with the dead, the quality of evidence displayed is an example for all of us when we read that viral post on the internet, hear the words of a pseudoscientist, or internalize mythical stories from the pulpit.
Check out the trailer below, and look out for the next film by Scott Dunn, I believe he has the storytelling and directing abilities to become a force in the indie film scene.
Watch Mandao of the Dead on Amazon Prime video.
Born and raised in San Diego California, I grew up loving the action horror and sci-fi genres. The first R rated film I saw was Predator back when I was 8 years old. Aliens blew me away as a youngster and I made a M41-A pulse rifle out of paper towel rolls and rubber bands. I ran around for hours avoiding face huggers and blasting xenomorphs in my back yard and I am bringing that big imagination to Nevermore Horror.