Panos Cosmatos’s Mandy might be Nicolas Cage’s career revival. Save for a few stellar supporting performances in the last ten years (i.e. Kick-Ass), Cage has become more of a laughing stock in recent years. That reputation can be put to rest.
Red (Cage) and Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) live a quiet, peaceful life at their remote cabin in the Shadow Mountains. When cult leader Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache) becomes fixated on Mandy, Red finds his world turned upside down. He then arms himself with a crossbow, a handmade axe, and a chainsaw to fight Jeremiah’s cult.
Mandy is one of the zaniest films in recent memory. Want to watch a neon-color schemed horror film that features psychedelic visuals and Cage drunkenly screaming in a bathroom mirror? Look no further! Want to watch a movie that features both a chainsaw duel and philosophical monologues about the universe? Look no further! Arthouse and grindhouse haven’t meshed this well together since Drive.
Mandy works better as a rock opera than a horror film. It’s told in three separate chapters, each focusing primarily on one character. “Shadow Mountains, 1983 AD” is Mandy’s story and is a candy-colored romantic tragedy. We learn through vague lines of dialogue of Mandy’s tragic upbringing and how she feels at peace with Red. Riseborough and Cage both are appropriately quiet and expressive in this segment.
“Children of the New Dawn” is Jeremiah’s story and is psychological horror at its finest. It expands the world building of Mandy as we’re focused on a Manson-like cult and a demonic motorcycle gang. Roache delivers a chilling performance as the creepy Jeremiah. In one key scene, Jeremiah delivers a self-righteous monologue to a drugged-out character while listening to The Carpenters. It’s an attack on our visual and auditory senses.
“Mandy” is Red’s chapter and that’s when the gears shift into full grindhouse mode. Cage embraces his own maniacal talent in the role of a broken, vengeful man. You can’t help but laugh at certain outbursts, but also feel sympathy for his predicament “Mandy” is also an extremely bloody segment filled with impalement, head crushing, decapitation, and sadism. Cage’s performance, along with beautifully drawn animation sequences, add panache to this gory chapter.
Cosmatos’s sophomore film suffers from mild pacing issues due to its structure. It’s forgivable since each segment is its own artistic achievement. Backed by the late, great Johann Johannsson’s (Prisoners, Arrival) metal-like score and King Crimson songs, Mandy isn’t just a horror film. It’s a rock music tribute, Cosmatos’s direction also shows off his love for comic books with certain camera angles and elaborate set designs.
Cage recently said in an interview that people will only see Mandy for him. It’s true, but I would say watch Mandy if you want to see an original, artistic genre film that’s subversive on a technical and narrative level.