Haunting, tragic, and twisted: MANDY is an experience that won’t appeal to everyone. It’s a film that will divide horror fans when the year in review comes around. Director Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow) and composer Johan Johannsson (Sicarrio) have crafted a surreal nightmare landscape of exquisitely shot visuals and haunting sounds. This is at once a beautiful and terrifying vision and it is totally insane. Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) is a logger living in the unspecified wilderness in the early 1980’s. He’s in love with Mandy (Andrea Riseborough), a haunting and self-assured woman who catches the eye of a cult-leader, Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache). The idyllic life the couple share is shattered when Sand sends his cult to find the girl, and the couple are subjected to a drug-addled torture.
Divided into three acts with title cards, the film is a slow burn to that final act. Roache delivers a manic performance as Sand, a spiritual new-age “Hippy” playing with a messianic complex that serves to blind him to his own narcissism. His rag tag assemblage of followers are lunatics devoted to the man-boys shallow definition of “enlightenment”. They serve to inflate his ego, though the film quickly reveals him to be a charlatan and fraud who long ago started to believe in his own lies. When he sees Mandy, he wants her. He feels he should always get what he wants, that the world exists to serve him. His effort is met with a turn from Riseborough that is at once heroic and tragic.
The film becomes a nightmare swirl of pain and heartache. The bombastic score grates the nerves, a synthesizer blend of uncomfortable minor keys that rip hard into the conscious mind. Reminiscent of past films like Blade Runner and Risky Business, the music and color palette of the film are characters in and of themselves. We’re in a reality that seems familiar but also carries an epic fantasy level of dark energy, something bordering on the supernatural. There are no dragons here, but there are monsters that may have once been men. And the Reaper is coming.
It’s that third act where Nicolas Cage takes control of the reins and takes off all the gloves. He’s on a rip roaring rampage kill spree that will see him dive into the darkest depths of hell itself to do the things that must be done. It’s a truly awe-inspiring performance from Cage, a swing for the fences that rewards and pays back all dividends in full. Washed in blood and horror, Mandy delivers the goods.
9.5 out of 10.
PLAYING LOCALLY AT THE OSIO THEATER WHERE THE POPCORN IS AWESOME!