Wednesday, May 18, 2011
If you read this blog, you know it is a ritual for my wife and eye to watch the spectacularly awful giant creature movies produced by the SyFy Channel (Sharktopus, Mega Sharp vs Giant Octopus, Wyvern, too many others to name). When I told her this week’s feature would be Mandrake, she said “Half-man, half-duck?” She knows her SyFy. However, the beast in question isn’t a hybrid between a man and a waterfowl, but a tree run amok.
Somewhere in the jungles of South America, a team sent by crazy rich guy Harry Vargas (Benito Martinez, The Shield) is searching for a dagger worn by a Spanish conquistador.* The team is led by Sgt. McCall (the underrated Max Martini of the sorely missed The Unit) and is unaware that at least one other team has sought the dagger and died for it. Vargas wants the dagger because…why do you have to ask so many questions? He just wants it, that’s all. The team finds the dagger, well preserved after 800 years, about ten minutes after they get there, so it doesn’t look all that hard.
Unfortunately for them, the dagger plunged into the ground was all that kept the giant killer tree from killing everybody. How did it do that? Always with the questions. It just did, that’s all. There are some evil tribesmen who having been killing outsiders by sacrificing them to the tree, but they seem to think an unrestrained tree is just too much. People are eaten by the tree, people are chased by the tree, and finally somebody remembers to put the knife back. During all this, Vargas goes steadily crazier and crazier because…well, some things we are not meant to know.
All those complaints considered, this wasn’t bad, by SyFy standards. The movie looks good, an d even the killer tree looks as realistic as possible given that it’s a tree. The cast is excellent, and really elevates this past SyFy’s usual standards. If you can avoid thinking about plot points which make no sense and enjoy this sort of thing, there is probably entertainment to be had here.
* Characters repeatedly refer to the dagger as being from the “fourteenth century”. Columbus made landfall in the Americas in 1492, which is at the end of the fifteenth century. Maybe it’s the former history prof in me, but that is the sort of thing that drives me batty.