MANDY Will Melt Your Face Off
With MANDY, writer/director Panos Cosmatos takes everything B movie trash and sacrifices it on the altar in the name of high art as an offering to the midnight movie cinema gods. The result is a blood-soaked Nicolas Cage at full-tilt and a movie-going experience that’s so drenched in LSD that you may catch a contact high. You’ll want to lean in and inhale deeply with this one.
The film follows Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) and Mandy Bloom (Andrea Risenborough), who lead a loving and peaceful existence primal wilderness of 1983. When their lives are savagely destroyed by a cult led by the sadistic Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache), Red is catapulted into a phantasmagoric journey fueled by liquid hallucinogen and bloody vengeance.
Narratively, there’s not a whole lot going on here, yet Cosmatos manages to take the viewer on a singular ride that feels epic in scope and metal AF in attitude. The plot is essentially that of nearly every revenge movie, but it’s never been told with quite the level grandiose vision that Cosmatos displays.
MANDY is one of of those films that is less concerned about story than it is mood and feeling, two things Cosmatos knows intimately to a masterful degree. He paints with a lush palette of vibrant colors and lathers his film in hypnotic undulations of foreboding that eventually explode into all out badassery.
Honestly, watching MANDY is like taking drugs — and you won’t need to be under the influence of anything chemically for the film to have this effect on you, either. It takes about 45 minutes to kick in, but when it finally does, it kicks hard, sending you spiraling into new visual, aural and spiritual dimensions.
Even though I always felt like I knew where it was progressing, and there were times that I wanted it to get places faster than it wanted to go, I was always held in awe, transfixed and anxiously in wait for whatever may come next. And once the film has you under its spell, it won’t take its bloody hooks out of you until you’ve been baptized in the blood.
Beneath the intentional slow burn pacing, there’s a murmur of volcanic dread that lies in wait, and when it eventually cracks the surface, you will be rewarded with the unforgiving face of Hell in the delightfully unhinged Nicolas Cage.
For the first half of the film, Cage gives a very restrained performance as the lumberjack who enjoys his quiet existence in the woods with his girlfriend. The interactions between Red and Mandy give the impression that Cage’s Red Miller needs Mandy to complete him, and nothing more. He’s the kind of man who’s just content standing near her aura, and their relationship fills the film with a tender, heartfelt warmth.
Cage’s subdued demeanor enhances his tumultuous transformation in the second half, which he told Entertainment Weekly was inspired by none other than Friday the 13th’s Jason Vorhees:
“Before he drinks that supernatural drug, or whatever it is, his fighting style is more ferocious, is more cat-like and feral. Whereas after the drug, there’s a transformation where he becomes almost like a golem, the ancient Jewish golem that was a supernatural statue that came to life. And I think Panos wanted that, he wanted me to be almost like Jason-esque, you know, from those horror films that were so popular. Panos and I really both decided what the graph of the performance would be. How much more Jason-esque is he there? Or like a statue there? We built this both together.”
Cage’s performance is everything you’d expect from this eccentric icon (and, yes, there are a handful of Cageisms that will live immortally hereafter); however, he gets slightly eclipsed by Linus Roache’s terrifying performance as Jeremiah Sand.
Roache goes quite literally balls out with his performance and has crafted a villain for the ages here, bringing the iconic performance of Dennis Hopper’s Frank Booth to mind with his psychotic explosions (particularly when he says “Don’t look at me!”). As good as Cage is in the latter half, Roache steals the show every time he’s on screen and manages to deliver a career best performance in Jeremiah Sand.
Highlighting the film with sonic energy is the fantastic score from the late Jóhann Jóhannsson. He assaults the surround sound with blistering drone synths and ethereal pads, which really complete the experience, giving Cosmatos visuals the right driving pulse.
After the carnage settles, this won’t be a film that everyone’s cup of tea, but it’ll be a unique experience that every cinema lover ought to subject themselves to. Remember, you have to buy the ticket to take the ride, and this is one ride that will melt your face off slowly with a blowtorch of pure cinema.
Rating: 5 cheddar goblins outta 5.
What did you think? Was this the most metal film you’ve seen since Mad Max: Fury Road? Did Roache outshine Cage? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feeling in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well.