In the folk horror genre, films like “Midsommar,” “The Ritual,” and “Tumbaad,” are extremely outstanding works without a doubt. Now included in the list is Lynne Davison’s “Mandrake,” a work of folk horror with a distinctive supernatural touch. It follows the story of Cathy Madden (played by Deirdre Mullins), a probation officer whose work is to rehabilitate convicts after their release. Cathy is responsible for supervising Mary Laidlaw, one such perpetrator, after her release. Laidlaw is referred to as “Bloody Mary” because of her witch slander, but Cathy ignores all the warning signs and wants to give Laidlaw another chance at life. But whether Mary will act morally, or abuse Cathy’s generosity is up for discussion.
‘Mandrake’ Plot Summary: What Happens In The Film?
A probation officer, Cathy Madden took over the supervision of Bloody Mary, i.e., Mary Laidlaw (played by Derbhle Crotty), after her release from prison. Mary Laidlaw was prisoned for twenty years for killing her husband and had since been accused of being a witch. However, Mary’s life was tragic. Cathy got to know everything about Mary from her chief, Bill, who had a kind of sympathy for Mary. He said that once, Mary’s husband beat her severely and set her on fire when he found her with another man. With much difficulty, Mary survived and killed her husband to take revenge on him. After hearing about Mary’s tragic history, Cathy decided to supervise her and give her a second chance to reform herself, so she went to visit her. She put a monitoring tag on Mary’s leg so Cathy could track all her activities.
Mary’s house had all the signs of satanic ritual and devil worship. She could read people’s minds by looking at them. She could read Cathy’s mind and knew that Cathy was actually a single mother. Her husband Jason (played by Paul Kennedy) was a sergeant with whom she shared custody of their son Luke. Cathy didn’t need to tell Mary about all this, but she came to know everything. In the meantime, Mary was suspected of the murder of two children and a young man named Duggan, who was found dead in the woods, but Cathy wasn’t convinced it was her. Finally, when the children’s parents were furious about Cathy’s sympathy towards the witch, Cathy went to talk to Mary in person. Mary had actually trapped those kids with the help of his son and later killed them. However, when Cathy reached Mary’s place, she saw something that could put her life at major risk. So, let’s discuss if Cathy could save herself from Mary or not. “Mandrake” also explores if Mary was really a witch and what purpose her Witchcraft served.
Why Did Mary Kill Those Kids? Was Mary A Witch?
In folklore, the Mandrake, or Mandragora, is a type of mythological plant that is used in Witchcraft. Just as the “moss” forest repeatedly mentioned in the film was actually the mandrake plant. These plants have to be uprooted to give birth to Evil. Mary wanted to give birth to Evil, for whom she sacrificed those two children before, but Mary still needed someone to uproot the evil Mandrake. So, when Cathy came to Mary to inquire about her, she knocked her unconscious with the help of her son, Thomas. The two brutally tortured Cathy and chained her around her neck, leaving her like a slave in the moss forest. Cathy, following their instructions, dug up the Mandrake’s root when a strange scream was heard. Cathy fainted right there and opened her eyes to find Mary making a cut in her leg and injecting something into her body. In fact, Mary cut into the baby-shaped root and stored the blood-like liquid that came out of it. Some of that liquid she gave Cathy to drink, and the rest she gave her son. Her son Thomas may have suffered from diabetes or some other deadly disease that could be cured by the blood-like fluid, so Mary might have wanted Cathy to make that root come out so that she could use this liquid to cure her son.
Finally, Cathy woke up the next morning when she realized that Mary was actually a witch and that she had killed her husband and sacrificed him to the Devil. She understood that Mary had done the same to the two children and Duggan, who were found dead in the woods. Otherwise, Mary might have wanted the children and Duggan to dig up that root, but they might have died from the root’s screams. We even see at the very beginning of the film that Duggan is getting captured by the moss and killed. So, it might be any kind of demonic ritual. For that, she had to dig up that root from which she could extract the bloody juice. Cathy knew that she would suffer the same fate if it was too late for her to escape. She called her previous client, Paul, to find a way to escape, but Mary caught her and captured her like a prisoner.
What Happened To Cathy? Was She Alive?
The next morning when Cathy woke up, she escaped from Mary’s house. Meanwhile when Jason broke into Mary’s house, he was stabbed by Bill, who was crazy in love with Mary. While Jason was about to catch Mary, she showed him the illusion of his current wife, Grace, who was pregnant. Jason was deluded and was killed by Mary. Cathy saw it all with her own eyes and ran away into the forest. But right at that moment, Grace was crossing the woods with Cathy’s son, Luke. Suddenly, she could no longer find Luke. She frantically searched for him, but by then, Luke had already been taken by Thomas. Thomas was wearing a monstrous, tangled dress that made him look like a demon. Cathy found that Luke was now in Thomas’ possession. So, Cathy, knocking Thomas unconscious, escaped with Luke. Meanwhile, the parents of the two dead children, along with Grace, found Thomas in the woods. They hanged him alive, which Mary had to witness in front of her eyes. Meanwhile, Cathy ran away with her son on the way home, but that baby-shaped root came with them.
‘Mandrake’ Ending Explained: Why Did Mary Practice Witchcraft? Did Cathy Become A Witch?
Mary was actually a devil worshiper whose main motive in awakening the Devil was to restore her son’s health. So, she sacrificed her husband and two children to go wandering in the forest. However, she had sympathy for Cathy. She was aware that Cathy was separated from her husband as her pregnancy issues prevented her from ever bearing children. Since she, too, had experienced her husband’s abuse, Mary detested the men in society. She forced Cathy to consume the bloody juice from the root to improve her ability to reproduce. Even though Cathy was on the verge of passing out throughout the treatment, she could still feel her womb being restored. However, Cathy continued to despise Mary’s horrifying attitude. She thought that if Mary really loved the children, then why had she killed their two siblings in the woods? Cathy found her wound healing the next morning, but she fled without spending even a second in Mary’s hellish chamber.
In contrast, Mary committed a slew of murders, for which her son Thomas was punished. Thomas deserved to die because of his extreme need for youth and health, which led him to kidnap Luke to get the youthful blood. Thomas’ survival was, therefore, in vain when Cathy managed to flee with Luke. Even worse, he had to be slain by the enraged mob whose children he once killed.
At Grace’s home, where she had already given birth to her kid, we see Cathy and Luke arrive. Cathy spent a long time gazing into the mirror while holding Grace’s infant in her arms. Cathy accidentally brought the root to her house because the liquid from the root was in her body. Therefore, it is possible to say that Evil had already possessed Cathy and will now terrorize her surroundings and possibly even infect Luke. At the end of “Mandrake,” we notice that Mary is exposed to the flames. She was either committing suicide, or she was setting the whole jungle on fire as she was infuriated by her son’s death.
“Mandrake” is a dark horror film with a gloomy undertone and grim storyline. It has a great storyline with a flavor of folklore, but it needs to be told slowly. Personally, I found the movie to be captivating at first but lost interest at the end. The plot lines were scattered, and the ending of “Mandrake” seemed a little hurried. Overall, it is a thrilling film to watch, and we can say that it does justice to its folk horror subgenre.
“Mandrake” is a 2022 Drama Horror film directed by Lynne Davison.