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‘Mandy’ (review)

Produced by Daniel Noah, Josh C. Waller,
Elijah Wood, Adrian Politowski,
Martin Metz, Nate Bolotin

Story by Panos Cosmatos
Screenplay by Panos Cosmatos
Aaron Stewart-Ahn

Directed by Panos Cosmatos
Starring Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough,
Linus Roache, Bill Duke, Richard Brake,
Ned Dennehy, Olwen Fouere,
Sam Louwyck, Hayley Saywell

 

If you haven’t yet seen the trailer for Mandy, I strongly urge you not to watch it.

This spectacularly insane, over-the-top operatic horror maelstrom is best experienced cold.

Just be prepared, going in, for the most metal of all horror movies, a cranked-to-the-max Nicolas Cage and ridiculous amounts of blood and gore. It’s Evil Dead meets David Lynch meet Hellraiser meets Troma meets Mad Max and then circles back to Italian giallo. It’s flat-out-nuts.

Cage is at his most sublimely uncaged as Red, a metal-loving lumberjack who lives with his girlfriend Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) in a remote house in the woods somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

Mandy spends most of her time reading fantasy novels and the archetypal scenes from those books bleed into the film’s visuals until you can’t be sure what is real and what is a dream.

And that’s before the horror starts.

Riseborough’s quiet, almost mousy demeanor, unearthly pale skin, and enormous, dark eyes recalls both Sissy Spacek in Carrie and Shelley Duvall in The Shining. We can see why, when she catches the eye of cult leader Jeremiah (Linus Roache, a long, long way from Law & Order), he decides he has to have her.

That spurs Red to go on an epic quest for revenge that defies description. And gives us pure, uncut Cage that leaves his amped-up performances in Face/Off and Vampire’s Kiss in so much blood-spattered dust.

You have to commend Roache for going all in as the deranged, childishly narcissistic Jeremiah. Unfortunately, I had a hard time accepting former ADA Cutter as an evil hippy cult leader. Some of the quirky scenes with the cult threaten to derail the film – or, you could argue, they add to its off-kilter weirdness.

I haven’t seen Panos Cosmatos’s first film, Beyond the Black Rainbow, but it’s on my must-see list now.

With Mandy, he’s crafted a hallucinatory horror film that, like its hero, screams, cries and chainsaws its way through tragedy.

(The film is dedicated to the late Oscar-nominated composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, whose score here is wonderfully, weirdly chthonic.)

 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

 

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