Mandy (2018)
Mandy (2018)

Genre: Horror and Thriller Running Time: 2 hrs. 1 min.

Release Date: September 14th, 2018 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Panos Cosmatos Actors: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Ned Dennehy, Olwen Fouere, Richard Brake, Bill Duke, Line Pillet

 


 

R

ed Miller (Nicolas Cage, looking bitter from the very first frame) comes home from his logging job (a spectacularly subtle piece of foreshadowing), grimacing for unknown reasons and refusing a beer from his coworker during the helicopter ride out of the woods. It’s 1983, in the Shadow Mountains, where Red and his girlfriend Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough) reside in a towering cabin (with countless windows), isolated yet peaceful, as if they’re the only people on the planet. The following day, out on the bright blue Crystal Lake, the two recline in their canoe, followed by serene camping near the water’s edge, staring into each other’s eyes and into a softly crackling fire.

The day after that, however, things grow steadily more hallucinatory – from uncomfortably long shots of Mandy’s expressionless face, to a dead deer, with its tongue dangling from its mouth and its limp body slumped in a pile of leaves. Moments later, Mandy mumbles a story about her father cruelly slaughtering baby starlings with a crowbar. And then, she reads from a book called “Seeker of the Serpent’s Eye,” whose text seems to transport her into another realm: a blood-red forest, wherein a van of suspicious people pass her by (a simple act augmented by replayed shots and freeze-frames).

As the story progresses, introducing the menacing Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache, an effective lunatic), an elderly, white-haired woman called Mother Marlene (Olwen Fouere), and the subservient Brother Swan (Ned Dennehy) – all members of a crazy cult – the visual embellishments only grow more bizarre. This story would be disturbing enough all by itself (aided by plenty of eerie musical cues), which makes the editing gimmicks – often utilized to add extra levels of weirdness – feel terribly unnecessary. Spontaneous smoke effects, color changes, and strobing lights routinely turn the woods into something otherworldly, as if the film takes place in an alternate dimension.

It’s not long before Brother Swan summons a “Mad Max”-like biker gang of leather-bound, nail-pierced, LSD-consuming, human-sacrifice-taking demons (akin to the Cenobites from the “Hellraiser” franchise), who kidnap Mandy to become a new pawn in Sand’s hellish sect. With extremely minimal humor and plenty of drug-soaked and wasp-venom-fueled mind-trips, the film mutates into a rock ‘n’ roll kaleidoscope of mania. It’s rather slow to get into the action (not only with actual slow-motion, but also from an overabundance of details for the raving villains), which is brought about from an insatiable lust for vengeance – though once this revenge plot picks up, it doesn’t waste any time diving into chaotic destruction.

“I’m going hunting.” Cage isn’t the action star he once used to be, but the steadily amplifying suspense is abruptly mitigated by nail-biting false alarms, giving many of the thrills a rollercoaster feel – as well imbuing his attack efforts with a certain potency beyond physical limitations. Despite its obvious low-budget construction, “Mandy” is stylish and alarmingly original, while Cage doesn’t hold back the rage in his performance. He’s a man of few words – perhaps wisely, since he’s prescribed some ludicrous dialogue – but he’s convincing as a tormented victim with nothing to lose.

Eventually, the picture becomes unspeakably outlandish and ghastly, as reality continually blends with a pervasive nightmarishness (and animated sequences), until it descends into a practically comical bloodbath, highlighted by a chainsaw duel and an epic showdown with the salvation-spewing religious extremist. At certain moments, it seems as if a perverse, sadomasochistic take on “Apocalypse Now.” “It didn’t make any sense!” cries Red, in one of the only normal conversations (to Bill Duke’s helpful recluse Caruthers), vocalizing spot-on words that probably shouldn’t have been spoken (perhaps giving ideas to the audience) in the midst of this intermittently entertaining, neon-hazed delirium.

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10