Wednesday, 7 November 2018


Cast: Nicolas Cage, Linus Roache, and Andrea Riseborough 

Director: Panos Cosmatos 

121 minutes (18) 2018
Universal Blu-ray region B

Rating: 8/10
Review by Peter Schilling

This action-horror movie begins with King Crimson’s Starless playing over the movie’s title sequence. Captioned ‘Shadow Mountains, 1983’, the reclusive Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) is a lumberjack who lives with beloved wife Mandy (Andrea Riseborough, Brighton Rock remake, WW2 thriller Resistance, sci-fi mystery Oblivion) in a secluded cottage. Their domestic bliss is broken, brutally and fatally, by Californian hippie-guru Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache, Division 19), the dementedly self-obsessed leader of the ‘Children of the New Dawn’, who capture Mandy for drug-induced slavery.

After she laughs at the insane Jeremiah’s pompous ravings, and his freaky gang of LSD-crazed followers and apparently demonic bikers, poor Mandy is burned alive, and they even force Red to watch this murder. Traumatised survivor Red collects his crossbow, named Reaper, for a hunting trip, and then, much like the cosmic protagonist Thor (in Avengers: Infinity War), he also forges a battle-axe, in preparations for his journey into the underworld. Red embarks on a seek-and-destroy mission, but is obviously in danger of losing his own fractured humanity along the way.

From the director of weird sci-fi thriller Beyond The Black Rainbow (2010), wryly off-beat genre-fest Mandy delivers a grotesque melodrama, a frequently hypnotic and visionary slice of surrealist horror, and is made glorious with often mesmerising cinematography. Panos Cosmatos is the son of George Pan Cosmatos, maker of The Cassandra Crossing, rat movie Of Unknown Origin, Stallone actioner Cobra, underwater thriller Leviathan, and notable western Tombstone. His father’s diverse screen works seem to have profoundly influenced Panos, so there’s a winningly eclectic range of tortuously contrived and darkly gonzo themes in Mandy, including home-invasion shocker, twisty acid-trip, backwoods-psycho slasher, sinister road-movie, fierce black-comedy, and straight-to-hell revenger.

Chaptered by animated interludes, this sophomore effort progresses from a rage of payback to various degrees of psychedelic madness that affect the quite hideously tormented and wild-eyed anti-hero, who eventually becomes likened to a “Jovan warrior, sent forth, from the eye of the storm”. Out of all this moral darkness on a post-industrial wasteland there’s a grisly fairy-tale that slowly and painfully emerges from a gloomy, and yet compelling, nightmare set-up. As the killing spree continues to gather violently arty momentum, from its loony duel with chainsaws to the grandiose finale’s subterranean confrontation that concludes this increasingly mythological journey, Mandy turns into a tour de force of loony masculine violence. Here, Cage proves that he really doesn’t need the burning-skull effects of his two Ghost Rider comic-book pictures to portray another icon of ultimate vengeance.

Mandy is a close rival, in certain auteur terms, to the most cinematic work of John Milius, especially his classic fantasy adventure Conan The Barbarian. Of course, with this kind of bizarre movie, there are bound to be a few critical accusations of premeditated, and not accidental, pretension against the director. Clearly, the creator has lofty aims, but some viewers might not be very sympathetic towards his archly stylistic ambitions, particularly if its varied references (everything from Orpheus to Race With The Devil is evoked here) simply pass them by, quite unnoticed. But Mandy is an example of that extremely rare beast, a wholly intentional ‘cult movie’ candidate that cleverly succeeds in a distinctive objective to appeal to a rather select audience, without losing its general appeal to any other fans of weirdly intriguing fun movies with a startlingly cinematic verve. See it, or die laughing at your own misfortune.

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