Directed by Panos Cosmatos.
Starring Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Bill Duke, and Richard Brake.
The happy lives of Red and his girlfriend Mandy are ruined by the arrival of a sinister cult leader and his deranged minions, forcing Red into a surreal and increasingly bloody quest for revenge.
HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE!!!!!
Well, once more I have somehow managed to avoid being fired by my flickering overlords and survived to finish another year of October Horrors.
We’ve had quite the selection of horrors this year encountering zombies, mad scientists, lots of Frankenstein monsters, re-animated pets, dream demons, the Devil and whatever the fuck The Greasy Strangler was. To cap off another year I’ve picked a film that, from the moment I laid eyes upon it, I knew it would take the final slot this year. Starring everyone’s favourite big-screen madman Nicolas Cage, it’s the surreal action/horror fever dream known as Mandy.
Mandy is a challenging film to explain in simplistic terms, with it feeling like two quite different films that have been chained together with a dark feverish atmosphere that you envelopes you and from which there is no escape.
For the first hour or so it’s a bewildering, nightmarish, psychedelic trip that looks and feels like the kind of stuff you imagine whenever you hear about something like MK Ultra. Imagery that is so surreal and strange that it might baffle and bewilder viewers, but also so beautifully shot and with such a vibrant and creative use of colour (specifically deep lush reds) that you can’t help but be intoxicated by the whole experience.
After the slow and dreamy first half, things really change gears in the second half as we switch genres from a slow-burning horror art film and into blood-soaked horror-action goodness with Nicolas Cage doing what he does best; going fucking crazy.
Most films would struggle with the transition between slow-burning dread and shocking and fast-paced action, with the switch often being executed so haphazardly that you feel a sense of tonal whiplash. With Mandy, however, director Panos Cosmatos’ slow and delicate approach makes the transition feel natural, with the slow burn in the first half allowing the tension and atmosphere to build to a boil until it erupts into a shocking display of masterfully shot, choreographed and edited violence.
The action scenes, while limited in number, are easily some of the most ridiculously enjoyable you’ll find in a modern horror film. The various fights that Cage finds himself embroiled in gradually growing in absurd awesomeness that will plaster a big stupid grin on your face while watching. The sight of Cage and a demonic minion battling to the death with DUELLING FUCKING CHAINSAWS is hands down the coolest thing that I’ve seen this October. That and Cage downing a bottle of vodka while screaming in his underpants.
The performances on hand are strong throughout, with Andrea Riseborough giving a haunting low key performance as the titular Mandy, while Linus Rocahe projects a deeply unsettling air as a kind of Reagen era Manson family leader with a warped idea of love that he’s just dying to show Mandy.
However, it’s Nicolas Cage who dominates the film with what is one of the best performances he’s given in years. As Red, Cage’s performance, much like the film, is very much one of two halves, with each half of the film allowing the actor to demonstrate his increasable range and reminding us just how good of an actor he can be when he’s given the right material.
In the first half, Cage conveys a sense of sadness and anguish more effectively with little dialogue than some actors could with pages of it. The second half though, is when things get nuts, as Cage fully embraces the wide-eyed lunatic that we’ve all come to love as he embarks upon a furious coke fulled rampage full of manic stares and comical deranged howls. Long story short; this is vintage Cage and it’s pure unadulterated awesomeness.
I hinted at it earlier, but words cannot convey how utterly stunning this film is to look at, with it packed to the rafters with moments of haunting visual beauty and nightmarish horror and creative use of colour that perfectly conveys the mood of scenes. Note the use of calming blues for a tender romantic moment before switching to dark hellish reds that bathe the screen in the darker more horrific moments. At the risk of repeating myself again, I really can’t stress enough how much of visual feast this film is, and it is one that has to be seen on the biggest and sharpest screen money can buy.
The striking visuals, action scenes and performances are complemented by an evocative score by the late Johann Johannsson whose dark guitar chords, heavy synth beats and hellish post-rock approach conjures up fond memories of the greatest and darkest of 1980s genre films. It’s a fantastic, intense and atmospheric from one of our greatest and most underrated film composers whose vast musical talents will be sorely missed.
With fantastic visuals, music, action, atmosphere and a powerhouse performance from Nicolas Cage working at peak mad bastard, Mandy is one of the strangest, most beautiful and most entertaining films I’ve watched all month. Quite simply, it’s the perfect film to watch this Halloween.
Thanks once more for joining me for another year of October Horrors. I hope that I’ve given you a helpful selection of treats for you pick from as you settle in for what will hopefully be a night of spooky fun for all.
However, I’m always looking for suggestions for future Octobers so do feel free to leave them in the comments or send me them directly on Twitter at Graeme Robertson @robertsong93.
Thanks once again and I wish you all a safe and very Happy Halloween!
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★