Frightfest Glasgow: Mandrake (2022)

Director: Lynne Davison

Running Time: 85 Minutes

Starring: Deirdre Mullins, Derbhle Crotty, Paul Kennedy, Seamus O'Hara, Nigel O'Neill, Ian Beattie, Jude Hill, Paul Mallon, Sara Dylan, Roisin Gallagher

Within darkened woods, a chained-up person frantically digs through mud in search of something. Their efforts are cut short by a shrill scream, before being dragged off in this attention-grabbing opening. Working off Matt Harvey's screenplay, director Lynne Davison crafts an occult spin on an ITV drama for her feature debut.

Introduced grappling with work-related aggression, probation officer Cathy Madden (Deirdre Mullins) is immediately shown as somebody believing every client deserves a chance at redemption. Mullins sells this familiar character journey, as the officer finds herself engrossed with the job at the expense of her family. While this leads to an unnecessary subplot involving a one-sided infatuation, it also takes Cathy to her next task - rehabilitating notorious killer ‘Bloody’ Mary Laidlaw (Derbhle Crotty) after a 20-year sentence. As the townsfolk think the worst of Mary in opposition of Cathy, their clashing beliefs are impacted when two children disappear near Mary's farm.

As a desperate search ensues, it's fascinating to see this crime drama dive into earthy corners of the occult. It brings up an interesting idea regarding the lawless actions of a mob seeking vengeance, although it struggles to maintain interest when the direction feels lost in a deteriorating third-act. Questions linger by the end regarding what it was all for, yet before then were intriguing elements.

Mandrake played at Frightfest Glasgow. It will premiere exclusively on Shudder from 10th November.