By JD Phillips
I think this is the strangest review I might ever write. Mostly because the film in question is a strange experience, unlike most others. It's simultaneously a brilliant piece of 80’s horror art and an overindulgent mess that never figures itself out outside its influences. Basically, it’s a film where it makes perfect sense for Nicolas Cage to scream, cry, laugh menacingly, and chug a whole bottle of vodka while on the toilet, wearing a tiger t-shirt and his tighty whities.
If that sounds horrible to you or if it sounds brilliant to you, you’re right.
You can tell within seconds that this movie is going to be a trippy arthouse ride like you’ve never seen before. Anyone familiar with director Panos Cosmatos knows his films are basically like falling through a portal on the side of a heavy metal album cover. It’s a dark 80’s grindhouse fantasy horror fest that is powerfully immersive in ways that most films don’t come close to.
Whether you are watching scenes that take place within the Charles Mansonesque Jesus Freak cult, the animated tripfests, or Nicolas Cage chainsaw fighting (yes, you read that right) with a Mad Max style BDSM demon, you will find it nearly impossible to take your eyes off the screen.
That’s not to say that what you are watching will entirely be worth that attention. In the end, the film definitely feels like it’s more style over substance. It never feels like it ever reaches the heights that it sets up. It relies too much on cliches from the genre it loves to ever truly be more than a beautiful homage. If you don’t have a special place in your heart for heavy metal music and grindhouse action, there just won’t be much here for you.
That’s not to say that the cast doesn’t give their all to prove themselves. Nicolas Cage gives his most insane performance to date. Fans of his from films like “Raising Arizona” or “Adaptation” won’t find that actor here. Fans who love to watch clips of him being a mad-eyed psycho in “The Wicker Man” or “Face/Off” will want to watch this film immediately. The man forges a battle axe and takes on the forces of evil with bloody rage as you’ve never seen before.
The film drives into the actor’s wackiness and this time it really works. This is definitely a film that needed Nicolas Cage. Maybe if “Ghost Rider” would’ve embraced the B-movie potential of its star, that film would be more memorable.
The rest of the cast is pretty excellent too. Andrea Riseborough shines as the titular Mandy. She brings a unique but grounded style to the character that makes you understand why these men fall in love with her so heavily. Speaking of, Linus Roache’s cult leader Jeremiah Sand might be the best part of the whole movie.
Fans of “Vikings” will be pleased to hear that Roache once again throws himself into a creepily sexual role with both feet. It’s hard to match the level of weird Nicolas Cage can bring, but Roache gives him a run for his money. It doesn’t hurt that Jeremiah Sand is the best-written character of the bunch.
The rest of the cult members are pitch perfect in their roles. They all look like the director went to a bunch of real-life cults and picked his favorites. Each one brings a different kind of creep factor that really elevates the film.
In the end, “Mandy” is a wonderfully made love letter to its genre even if it fails to redefine said genre as much as it potentially could have. Its particular brand of artful bloody wackiness may not be for everyone, but those that love that sort of thing will have one hell of a good ride.
6.0 or 9.0
(Depending on which way your bread is buttered)