If you are one of the million people who viewed the trailer online, you will have gotten a taste of what Mandy has in store for you, but nothing will prepare you for what’s to come. Mandy is more than just a violent revenge film. It’s a work of art that is both beautiful and disturbing. Watching Mandy is the equivalent of drinking a jar full of liquid acid (the kind that melts your mind, not your face).
Red (Nicolas Cage) is a logger who lives with his wife Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) in the Shadowy Mountains of a remote cabin near the lake. Mandy works at a nearby gas station. In her spare time, she enjoys painting and reading fantasy novels and they live a relatively peaceful existence. That is, until Mandy is spotted along a dirt road by Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache), leader of a hippy death cult called The Children of the New Dawn. Jeremiah becomes obsessed with Mandy and demands that his followers fetch her.
“[Nicolas Cage] descends upon the valley like an angel of death, covered from head to toe in the blood of his enemies.”
In order to pull off the scheme,The Children of the New Dawn seek the aid of The Black Skulls, a demonic biker gang. Obscured in darkness, they look like the Cenobites from Hellraiser re-imagined as members of Slipknot. They agree to abduct Mandy in exchange for a blood sacrifice. They break into Red and Mandy’s home at night and tie up the unsuspecting lovers and Red is kept alive, to ensure Mandy’s obedience.
The cult members drop LSD into Mandy’s eyes, inject her with insect venom and bring her face to face with Jeremiah. The entire scene becomes a warped nightmare as Mandy sinks deeper and deeper into a drug trip. Jeremiah’s voice becomes distorted, his movements vibrate with color and his face interchanges with Mandy’s. He recounts his life’s story, hoping that Mandy will instantly accept him as her messiah and lover. Instead, Mandy laughs in his face. Jeremiah does not take this well and, no longer attracted to Mandy, burns her alive in front of Red.
The cult members leave and Red is left to die, tied up in barbed wire braces. But Red manages to break free of his restraints, badly cutting his arms in the process. before vowing vengeance, he stockpiles a deadly arsenal, including a crossbow and a stainless steel axe he forges himself. Red then wanders out into the woods to exact his revenge, beginning with The Black Skulls.
The first half of Mandy belongs to Andrea Riseborough as she seduces the audience, only to be hijacked by the madness that is Nicolas Cage. I can think of no better actor to represent this film. Cage’s reputation of playing demented characters has built to this very moment, but it can also be a downside. I was unable to suspend my disbelief and see Red as simply Red. For good or bad, I was only able to see him as Nic Cage.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Nic Cage performance without at least one appearance of the trademarked “Cage-Rage,” where after escaping he furiously chugs vodka in his underwear, blood dripping from his wrists, screaming at the top of his lungs between swigs of the bottle. I’d say it’s even wilder than his alphabet rant in Vampire’s Kiss, yet still doesn’t compare to the “Black It Out” freakout from Zandalee. It’s nonetheless invigorating to see him in action as he descends upon the valley like an angel of death, covered from head to toe in the blood of his enemies. The highly-anticipated chainsaw fight, although brief, was everything I could have hoped for.
“Mandy is sensory overload.”
Director Panos Cosmatos has produced his best work yet. He cleverly uses scarlet red light, fog and darkness to paint his vision. Between chaotic, acid-fueled nightmares, Mandy makes appearances through dreamlike sequences, similar in style to the cult-classic, Heavy Metal. The final cherry on top is the score provided by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson, an amalgamation of synthwave and doom metal. Mandy will stimulate your most primal desires, no drugs required. Mandy is drugs. Mandy is sensory overload.
Mandy made its Canadian premiere on August 1st at the 2018 Fantasia Film Festival and is slated for US release on September 14th. Check out more of Nightmare on Film Street’s Fantasia Fest Coverage here, and be sure to sound off with your thoughts over on Twitter and in our Facebook Group!