Greetings from the WLE Underground! Another highly anticipated film has finally arrived in the form of Mandy starring Nicholas Cage and directed by Beyond the Black Rainbow’s Panos Cosmatos. Nicholas Cage plays Red Miller, a haunted man who is mentally broken by the murder of his true love. Fueled with rage, Miller travels the wilderness on a bloody rampage of revenge as he hunts the members of a crazed religious sect responsible for Mandy’s death.
Mandy is a deep, dark, bloody pool of horror filled with heartbreak and insanity. The first two acts of the film move at a slow and steady pace, allowing the audience to connect with Red and Mandy. We see their chemistry and love for one another. It also helps set up the reason for Red to go off the deep end in the third act. Nicolas Cage puts in one of his best and most insane performances to date and I loved every minute he was on screen. Watching him transform from a mild mannered man in love to a maniac on a mission was engrossing.
Linus Roache shines as Jeremiah Sand, the leader of the cult. There is nuance to this villain who has an air of scary confidence and a creepy charisma along with a surprising back story. Another surprising element was the group of motorcycle riders that the cult “hires” as muscle. The design of each of the riders was morbidly fascinating. Each biker’s personality is represented in their outfit. There is a bit of exposition given about who these riders are, which I wish they had not added, but I understand why it was given. Regardless of this, they have become one of my favorite groups of bad guys in recent cinema.
Panos Cosmatos’ use of light and darkness adds a level of meaning to every scene. When we see Red and Mandy together there is a cool blue color palate or blue light that is present. The cult scenes are lit in orange and red, while our riders are never fully visible. These grotesques are hidden by dark lighting or shadows, giving them an almost otherworldly presence At one point near the end there is a scene that is lit in purple. I thought it was an excellent touch to an already intense moment as it perfectly represented the emotion of Red Miller without saying a word. There is one scene at a pivotal moment in the story that is lit in a bright light while using a natural color palette. It allows the audience to see everything. The contrast between this scene and the rest of the movie adds to the impact and meaning of that moment.
Things get very bloody in the final third of this film and the confrontations between Red and all of the bad guys will put you on the edge of your seat. Some may seem a bit over the top but by that point of the film it is exactly what you want. There is also humor worked into the movie that did not take away anything but did serve as a release to the intensity. A lot of the humor is due to the go-for-broke performance of Nick Cage and the editing of Brett W. Bachman. My favorite humorous moments involve a TV commercial for a brand of mac and cheese that I would love to be real. Best TV commercial ever.
Mandy has the artistic flare of Cosmatos’ first film but with a touch more mainstream horror elements. It warrants multiple viewings to appreciate everything that is going on artistically, plus it is just an all around great film. It is not going to be a film for every horror fan, but it is definitely one for those who appreciate a refreshingly insane, artistically crafted, solidly written horror film that allows the audience to think, feel, and imagine on their own. A grindhouse horror film at its finest.