★★★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed by Lynne Davison
Blending folk horror with crime and family drama, Mandrake, Lynne Davison’s debut as a feature director, is a stunning work that instantly won a spot on my list of best horror films of 2022. None of the parole officers in a small Irish town want anything to do with “Bloody” Mary Laidlaw (Derbhle Crotty) — recently released from jail after serving decades for murder — so Cathy Madden (Dierdre Mullins) takes the case. The locals believe that Laidlaw is a witch, and when two children go missing soon after she is free, they instantly suspect her, making Madden’s job even more difficult. Matters only get worse, though, when Madden’s young son Luke (Jude Hill) gets drawn into the thick of things in a very deadly way. Matt Harvey’s screenplay is loaded with tensions and shocking surprises, and Davison wrings every possible bit of suspense from it, giving the film a brooding, dread-filled atmosphere. She is greatly aided by incredible performances from Mullins and Crotty. Unrelentingly bleak and absolutely mesmerizing, Mandrake gets my highest recommendations. Go in as cold as possible and prepare to be stunned.
A Cloud So High
★★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed by Christopher Lee Parson
A Cloud So High is the grim, unrelenting tale of how 22-year-old war veteran Paul (Aaron Perilo), son of troubled former police officer Gene Sarling (John Savage), gradually goes from being the victim of a violent crime to a petty thief to a maniacal killer. Perilo gives an intense lead performance, Savage is solid as the father who has his own troubled past with which to deal, and a sizable supporting cast is filled with gripping performances, as well. The film pulls few punches as it follows the sordid path that Paul takes, and writer/director/editor Christopher Lee Parson keeps things decidedly off-kilter with a unique filmmaking approach that blends documentary-style interviews with Paul’s increasingly unhinged deeds, using editing, sound design, and a chilling score by Parson to maximum effect.
Mandrake and A Cloud So High screened as part of Arrow Video FrightFest Glasgow, which ran March 10–12 at the Glasgow Film Theatre as part of the Glasgow Film Festival in Scotland. For more information, visit https://www.frightfest.co.uk/.
Blue Finch Film Releasing presented Mandrake at FrightFest Glasgow 10-12 March 2022.