If you are a fanboy or fangirl who likes to drop acid, read Heavy Metal magazine and jam out to–oh, let’s say– Dio in a black light basement, then Panos Cosmatos’ Horror/Fantasy Mandy is for you. If you don’t engage or dabble in any of the above, then I would suggest you stay away–like I wish I had.
The plot? Pure revenge yarn. I’ll get down to it.
Red (Nicolas Cage) is a lumberjack in the mountains of…Oregon?… Yeah, I’m going with Oregon, who lives an idyllic life with his wifey–yeah, you guessed it–Mandy (Andrea Risebrough). Mandy is very lithe and fairy-like in a Gothic Horror kind of way. She wears Motely Crue and Black Sabbath concert t-shirts. And she has really big expressive eyes. Weird eyes, actually.
Red and Mandy are deeply in love and, on this, I’m not being tongue in cheek. Their romance is touching. They’re simpatico.
Mandy had a horrible childhood. Her father is a demon. I’m not kidding. He is a real demon–quite possibly the demon. But she escaped him.
Then one day she’s walking down the idyllic road (well, it’s scenic but there are these weird howling sounds at night) where she is spied by demonic cult leader, Jeremiah, (Linus Roache) and his slovenly followers who are out cruising in their conversion van. Oh yeah, I forgot…it’s 1983–Soooo yes, there are mullets…And aviator glasses.
So Jeremiah summons his denizens from hell (yes, he has that power) and they are scary, (think Pinhead, Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers if they were really oily and rode motorcycles) to kidnap Mandy. They do, but not before they ransack the couples tender lair and torture Red, leaving him tied up in barbwire and almost dead.
At the cult’s labyrinth lair, things don’t go well for Mandy when she encounters Jeremiah; he thinks he’s the son of Satan and she knows full well he is not. She is not impressed when he plays her his record and it has flute in it–and we’re not talking Jethro Tull. She laughs at him. (Yeah, I know. But she can’t help it. She knows demonic rock and this isn’t it.) This makes Jeremiah furious so he sets her on fire, though he does it with a wistful look in his eyes.
Meanwhile Red is tied up in barbwire with a very serious vendetta jones. He escapes the barbwire and forges a Medieval looking battle axe and goes to war with the denizens of hell.
And its bloody. Really bloody.
I didn’t like this movie. But that’s just me. From the dispassionate position of objectivity, Mandy meets, even exceeds its bold, grandiose and highly stylized ambitions. That said, Cosmatos could pick up the tempo a bit.
Visually, it is stunning. Cosmatos’ color palate is as vibrant and lush as it is dark and gritty. There were times I felt as though I was free falling into an abyss of shades of red.
The soundtrack by Icelandic composer, Johann Johannson is superb. I knew it was going to be special when, during the opening sequence, Red surveys his opulent forested surroundings as the gorgeous, haunting overture of King Crimson’s Starless plays. Best part of the whole movie, I thought.
Cage is good, particularly in the first half as he conveys his relationship with Mandy. It is a gentle, natural, seamless performance; one for which he will receive a lot of attention, perhaps even career saving attention. I hope so. I have an affection for him.
In the second half he goes predictably bonkers, albeit with a wink and a nod…And a leer. It’s effective, if you like that kind of thing.