From the first frame to the final image, Mandy is a work of art that has been crafted by a director with a distinct vision and confidence in his ideas. Panos Cosmatos melds abstract landscapes and otherworldly weaponry into a simple story, crosses unlikely genres of psychedelic romance with demonic fantasy, and creates a bold, blood-red hellscape of stunning sights and sounds.
Nicolas Cage plays Red Miller, a logger who leads a reclusive existence with his artist girlfriend Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough). But their quiet life is shattered by a strange hippie cult and their demon biker gang, with events eventually culminating in Mandy’s brutal death. Miller, in a state of despair and anger, traverses the road of retribution; a path full of anguish, horror, and bloodlust.
It’s almost like watching a soul trapped in pain – isolated in hell and trying to escape – but the further they indulge in their dark side, the sooner they become lost; a victim to madness and horror, straying from humanity with no easy return. The mind is warped, a monster takes over, and now they belong in this hell… This is an allegorical mind trip of a description that fits Nicolas Cage’s character arc – a man who is propelled into gruelling acts of violence and hellbent for revenge against human and inhuman villains, no matter the cost to the soul or thought for the resulting aftermath.
The first half of the film is slow, patient, and deliberate to a fault. You can’t help but think Mandy would have benefited from some meaner editing to create a leaner final version. On the plus side, it’s so expertly filmed – with beautiful colour filters which lend each frame a phantasmagorical quality – that it hardly matters once the second half is ignited into frenzied life (hallucinogenic, monologuing randomness all forgotten). Viewers are rewarded with an utterly unhinged Nicolas Cage performance, his every kill satisfyingly staged and owing to the director’s showmanship for bloodletting. Mandy is a unique experience – part art film, part gory eye candy. The dialogue is as surreal as its 80’s setting, and the violence is staggered with fantastical force. A spellbinding chainsaw duel and a forged silver axe are just a couple of the treats in store for anyone who desires something different in their cinematic rampages.
Overall, director Panos Cosmatos achieves his vision with resounding success. He creates an original and daring horror that has the potential to turn people away or absorb them entirely into the canvas; framing the entire film with uncommon grace, saturating it in glorious colours, and injecting it with volcanic bursts of action. Mandy is a cult classic and a fine example of style over substance.
Score – 8/10