Panos Cosmatos’s homage to 60s & 70s psychedelic horror is a hell of a ride. With it’s saturated palette (it’s all red or all green or all blue), dreamy dialogue (“what’s your favourite planet?”), Carpenteresque brooding, menacing soundtrack it is the heir to those Ken Russell, Jodorowsky, Bava and Argenti movies you saw as a youngster, and while you couldn’t quite figure out what was going on, you were pretty sure it was incredible. It has some of the art house psychosis of the Bad Batch but with a tighter plot, and none of the falling in love with your cannibalistic kidnapper yuckiness.
Cage is logger Red Miller, who lives an idyllic life in the forest with his wife Mandy. She is the sensitive artist, with an other worldly quality, who spends her day reading fantasy paperbacks. Of course, it never ends well for a woman like this in a revenge movie. They must always be virtuous to justify the man’s righteous anger, and Mandy is a classic example of fridging.
So, sure enough she catches the eye of cult leader Jeremiah leader (played by Linus Roache in a role that surely would have gone to David Carradine in the past). In order to kidnap her in to his service he (obviously) summons hell raiser type demons on motorbikes – I mean, how can this not be great? And it manages to get weirder after this. We have trippy psychedelic dialogue with two black eyed faces in close up. Even when you think it’s found the top and gone over it, you realise it’s a false summit – we can over the top even more. A tiger is involved at one point – who knows why? Throw in an epic chainsaw battle, some occasional anime sequences and more blood soaking than seems feasible and this is certainly a visceral, cinematic experience you’re unlikely to forget.
Mandy is no ironic Love Witch, it largely takes itself seriously and is better for that. Cage is the ridiculous actor of our time which sometimes takes the edge of this – when he’s raging in pain in the bathroom after his wife’s death we should be sharing his anguish but we’re thinking of Nic Cage internet memes. But once it goes full on demented, he’s also the only choice- who else could call a demon a “vicious snowflake”?
I’ve spent much of the summer watching really mediocre movies that I could barely be bothered to write about. When you see something like Mandy, you’re reminded what cinema can be. Why make something so forgettable as The The Meg when you could create something as glorious as Mandy? (I know the answer is money, it’s rhetorical).
I complained that the new Predator wouldn’t be the sort of film you’d come back to the house and watch in the late hours with friends. Mandy is such a movie. I’m not sure it has anything serious to say about the human condition (maybe, “don’t do drugs kids”), but it sure has a lot of fun not saying it.