A mandrake is the root of a plant belonging to several of the nightshade family. The species which grow around the Mediterranean are often to be found in folklore and legend. This is largely down to their roots, which can often resemble human forms, and their poisonous and hallucinatory properties. They have therefore played a pivotal role in many horror books and films. Their purported magical properties feature heavily in Mandrake.
Cathy’s (Deirdre Mullins) bad week is set to get even worse when she takes on the case of Mary Laidlaw (Derbhle Crotty), who has just been released from prison after serving thirty years for the murder of her husband. The probation officer prides herself on giving all her clients a fair chance and scoffs at the superstitions of the villagers, who believe she practices the occult and witchcraft. When two children go missing in the woods, she is determined to prove her innocence.
Mandrake plays with the fears and anxieties of rural folklore to create a disturbing and slightly confusing tale. Taking the element of ‘hillbilly’ horror and transporting them to Northern Ireland, Lynne Davison feature debut is a story of motherhood and fertility. Of the human need which drives many to obsess on procreation and childbirth. There’s lots to admire in Mandrake, even if it never really comes together as a cohesive narrative.
Mandrake screens at Glasgow Film Festival.