Prior to entering into the 2018 movie season, Nicolas Cage had gone nearly a decade without featuring in anything of substantial quality. You would have been hard-pressed to find anybody, outside of Cage mega-fans, who were eagerly anticipating his upcoming horror/thriller Mandy. Unfortunately, it appeared as though Panos Cosmatos’ second feature film would be destined to fade into oblivion. Little did audiences realise that it would come to represent one of the most striking and absorbing movies of the year.
Cage plays Red Miller, a reclusive logger who lives in a remote cabin with his partner Mandy (Andrea Riseborough). They have a complicated relationship which is highlighted by their interplay and dialogue, with suggestive undertones that both characters have traumatic pasts. Their lives quickly deteriorate with the appearance of The Children of the New Dawn, a deranged cult led by Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache). Jeremiah, in true Charles Manson fashion, takes a shining to Mandy, and in his delusions of grandeur attempts to assume ownership over her. Mandy is hauntingly murdered, and Red left for dead. What ensues is the most trippy, ludicrous revenge plot in movie history, overflowing with quintessential Cage and psychedelic barbarity.
Cinematographer Benjamin Loeb, with Cosmatos’ direction, creates a beautiful kaleidoscopic fantasy, juxtaposed against the brutal, gratuitously bloody aspects of Red’s vengeance. Cage is the only actor in Hollywood who could have portrayed this character, which is exemplified in an infamous scene subsequent to Mandy’s death. With acute grief and struggling comprehension, Red consumes a bottle of vodka on the toilet in his underwear, while shrieking with rage. The absurdity of the sequence is balanced against Cage’s well-documented exaggerated acting, and impresses upon the audience the profound emotions experienced by the character.
One of the core horror elements in Mandy comes in the form of a sadomasochistic biker gang called the Black Skulls; a macabre spectacle drawn straight from a Slipknot music video. These demonic beings are cannibalistic and live in a hallucinogenic world mediated by an intense liquid variant of LSD. They are utilised by The Children of the New Dawn to kidnap Mandy, and therefore form a major part of Red’s quest for retribution. They lie somewhere between Hellraiser, Pan’s Labyrinth and Mad Max in aesthetic, and will stay rooted in your subconscious for the foreseeable future.
Decapitation, chainsaw-dueling and unhinged violence underpin this film’s intoxicating plot. Cage reignites his career with an all-out attack on the senses, transferred straight from the recesses of your most nightmarish fantasy. It is a psychoactive pulp extravaganza that will leave you equally satisfied and disturbed. Cage is back at the wheel and we are all strapped in for the ride.
Dir: Panos Cosmatos
Scr: Panos Cosmatos
DOP: Benjamin Loeb
Run time: 121 minutes