Welcome to Will Mom Like This?, an exploration into the trials and tribulations of sharing your favorite scary movies with family. Sharing movies with loved ones is a beautiful thing. As beautiful as it is, I think we have all experienced moments so uncomfortable you wish the couch would swallow you whole. In this new monthly column, I’m going to try and help you avoid that as much as possible. My hope is that this will work as a sort of guide for you to know when you should excuse yourself to refill the popcorn bowl and avoid the wrath of a disgruntled or disgusted parent. Be warned, we will be discussing a lot of plot spoilers but only so we don’t spoil a perfectly good evening with your folks.
For the glorious month of Rocktober, we’re celebrating the Sound of Screams here at Nightmare on Film Street, and the movie that immediately came to mind for me was Mandy (2018), directed by Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow). First of all, with such a memorable score and sound design, it seemed like a clear choice for this month, only strengthened by the fact that I knew my mom would hate it and I am a bully. Nicolas Cage (The Wicker Man, Mom and Dad, being Nicolas Cage) is not her favorite actor on earth, in fact I’d go so far as to say he makes her irrationally angry and this movie is very heavy on the Nicolas Cage front. Mandy is also a movie that I would call very artistically driven and my mom would call very weird. Long story short, I love Mandy and wanted to watch Mandy so I dragged my mother into it. Did she hate it as much as I thought she would? Let’s find out!
Mandy is less of a movie with a clear cut narrative and more of a psychedelic experience. If I had to offer a brief synopsis, I would say the movie is about a logger named Red (Nicolas Cage) and his wife Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) who live in the mountains and chaos ensues. It is incredibly stylized, full of color, repetitive motions, sequences of animation, and drug fueled tangents. My mom is a very logical person, and she appreciates when the movies she watches also follow logical chains of events. Historically, slow burn, atmospheric movies are not her jam. This was proven when she said “Snooze!” out loud and started fake snoring a whopping nine minutes into the film. However, she did concede that it is very beautiful to look at because the woman has taste!
Eventually, we are introduced to a drugged out hippie cult, The Children of the New Dawn, as they cruise through the red tinted mountain town where the movie is set. With their pupils the size of dinner plates, my mom announced “Oh THOSE are gonna be the bad guys.” and how very right she was. The Children of the New Dawn are powered by a face meltingly strong form of LSD and the amount of drug use was stressing my mom out. It also lead to everybody moving too slow for her, making her incredibly frustrated. I also have to think the drugs are responsible for the major orgy vibes we get from The Children of the New Dawn and those vibes made my mom “very uncomfortable.” Just say no kids.
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Speaking of orgy vibes, there’s some serious full frontal nudity in Mandy. This is thanks to one Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache), the leader of The Children of the New Dawn. Jeremiah has Mandy abducted and drugged and tries to impress her by playing his album for her and stripping entirely nude. Never really something you want to see with your mom, but I have to say I did get some joy from it when mere seconds before Jeremiah releases his dick to the breeze, my mom said “I hope he doesn’t take his clothes off.” She screamed, I laughed, Jeremiah’s penis was on screen for a very long time. “Oh dear, nobody wants to see that,” my mom said. And right she was as, in one of our favorite moments in the movie, Mandy just laughs hysterically at his penis. My mom actually loved this and it was the first time I saw her genuinely enjoying herself during our viewing. At least she liked it for a little bit before Mandy’s laughter devolves into something warped and scary and then my mom’s smile quickly faded.
Blood and Guts
Mandy is an extremely metal movie and as a result, the bodily harm is plentiful. The first occurrence that really set my mom off is when Mandy is captured and drugged by members of The Children of the New Dawn. They use a little dropper to insert the liquid drug directly into Mandy’s eye, and anything happening that close to an eyeball is uncalled for in my mom’s book. It certainly didn’t help that this is immediately followed by Mandy getting stung in the neck by a gigantic wasp. This made my mom instantly furious with me for turning this movie on in the first place. Spoilers incoming, but eventually, Mandy is killed by The Children of the New Dawn as they set her on fire in front of Red. It’s completely brutal and sad, and there’s one shot in particular where we see Mandy’s charred skull disintegrate and blow away in the wind that had my mom squirming. After Mandy’s death, the blood and violence kicks up tenfold as Red seeks out revenge on the cult that killed his wife, and this is where things get really interesting.
My mom loves a good revenge plot, and to my delight, that was enough for her to have some genuine fun with the later portion of Mandy. A stand-out moment came when Red drives his freaking battle axe through the top of one of the cult members’ skull and she nearly stood up from the couch she was cheering so hard. Even hours after we had finished the movie, she kept turning to me, eyes bright with excitement, and saying “remember when that guy had an axe in his head?” I think my heart grew three sizes every time she did that. And of course, how could she not love the chainsaw fight? She was clapping her hands and giggling with delight when Red whips a massive chain link around the demon biker’s (yeah there’s demon bikers, don’t worry about it) neck and pulls his body onto a running chainsaw.
For the entire duration of Mandy, my mom was demanding that someone’s head be “squished like a melon,” so you can only imagine her delight when Red finally confronts Jeremiah face to face and does exactly that. Truly an electric moment in our TV room. The funny thing is though, despite my mom’s outright enthusiasm over Red murdering The Children of the New Dawn, she still has a pretty big aversion to actually seeing blood or violence. It’s truly a fascinating sight to watch her cheer at the righteousness of the violence while simultaneously covering her eyes from what is happening on screen. One kill in particular lead her to turn the volume on the TV down when the gurgling blood noises got to be too much.
The Nicolas Cage of it All
I cannot comprehensively speak about Mandy without addressing just how strongly my mom dislikes Nicolas Cage. Almost immediately, things went exactly as I thought they would when my mom booed loudly upon seeing his name in the opening credits. She didn’t even give him a chance! For the first chunk of the movie, she was not a fan of how soft spoken he was and the plethora of philosophical discussions he would engage in, frequently referring to him as a “weirdo,’ and also proclaiming that she “could never be a hill person.” I chose not to press her further on this statement.
In a less subdued scene, after the murder of Mandy, Red has a complete breakdown in his bathroom and my mom absolutely hated it. This broke my heart as I think Nick Cage delivers a fantastic performance in this scene, but my mom was highly disturbed and wanted it to stop, dubbing it “too Nicolas Cage-y.” Even I must admit, she does have a point there. I will count it as a small win though that during the previously mentioned chainsaw fight, I have her on record saying that she “likes this Nicolas Cage!”
Miscellaneous Pearls of Wisdom
While I was able to lay out all the moments in Mandy that my mom had the most trouble with above, there were some things she said that don’t fall into any aforementioned categories, but were too good not to share.
- When one of The Children of the New Dawn asks another if he has the Horn of Abraxas, my mom rolled her eyes, loudly scoffed and said “Who doesn’t!”
- “If they play ‘Mandy’ (Barry Manilow) at the end of this I’ll say it’s the best movie ever” – they do not play the song “Mandy” at any point in the movie Mandy
- “He is not going to be well after this.” – and he wasn’t.
But Did Mom Like It?
So, the time came to ask the question, did Mom like that? No, she absolutely did not. I knew this would happen, she knew this would happen, and I bet you knew this would happen, but I had to try! Mandy is certainly not the kind of movie that I think would come to mind for most people when they think about horror movies despite how absolutely horrific it is. A large part of the beauty of this genre is how readily it lends itself to creativity and experimentation all in the name of freaking people out. Still, I will be the first to admit, this kind of thing isn’t for everyone. When I reached out to my mom for her final thoughts, she kept it short and sweet, saying “it was really weird.” And she’s right about that! 1/5 Moms would recommend. I think you have to have a very specific kind of mom for her to really dig this one, but I always think it’s worth a shot.
Would you ever subject your mother to the trippy wonders of Mandy? What’s your favorite memory of watching uncomfortable movies with mom? Let us know what scary movie you have always wanted to watch with your parents over on Twitter, in the Nightmare on Film Street Subreddit. and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club. We’ll do our best to give you a heads up of everything you’ll want to avoid, but don’t blame us if they disown you!