Mandy – 2018
Director Panos Cosmatos
Screenplay Aaron Stewart-Ahn, Cosmatos
Starring Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Bill Duke, Richard Brake, Ned Dennehy, Olwen Fouere, Sam Louwyck, Hayley Saywell, Line Pillet
If all things are fair and square, there will be a good, long career for Panos Cosmatos and his Cinematographer, Benjamin Loeb. The images they create in the time frame of 2 hours could last in the minds of viewers for a lifetime. The story may hold less complication than the images deserve, but together with Nicolas Cage back to his inspired best, the effect sustains. Mandy is one of the more unsettling pieces of modern horror since Rob Zombie introduced us to the Firefly family.
Cage is Red Miller, a lumberjack living an idyllic existence with his girlfriend Mandy (Riseborough) in a forest where colors linger in the air like the mood. Mandy is beset with sunken black eyes and dreams that haunt both her and Red. Honestly, from the beginning, we have the feeling that doom awaits the couple. Of course it could be all of the red in the fog laden atmosphere that feeds that perception.
One morning, as she is walking to work, she crosses paths with a van that is carrying the members of Children of the New Dawn. If that sounds like the chess club, then you might need better deduction skills. The leader, Jeremiah (Roache) makes eye contact with her and he is immediately beset with a desire for Mandy.
No amount of mood music can hide the fact that this guy is a lazy putz who has convinced a bunch of not quite geniuses to do his bidding. He gets one of his henchmen to procure her. How this happens I will leave for you to experience. I still haven’t made up my mind what they were needed for, other than shock value.
Suffice to say, Jeremiah’s needs don’t meet with the best interests of Red and Mandy. Most of the materials of the film make it clear that Red is going to spend quite a bit of the last half of the film seeking revenge.
How this works for one depends on if one appreciates mood and imagery over tactics that make sense. I will mention that one of these revenges involve a battle between two chain saws. Is this necessary when Red has so many other weapons at his disposal? Apparently he never saw how Indiana Jones dispatched the swords guy in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Things that work well in the film outweigh the more questionable choices. Risborough is not in the film long enough to flesh out the remarkable chemistry she has with Cage. As it is, it works. I just wish there were more.
Riseborough has a remarkable look, for the eyes and a delightfully unexplained scar below her left eye.
Cage is as engaged as I have ever seen, with an economy of dialogue. The look on his face in seeing tragedy unfolding in front of him is as hauntingly portrayed as I have seen since Michael Shannon in Take Shelter.
The cult is curious, especially with the Horn of Abraxas and that hornet they pull out of the jar. Several of the members seems strictly there to raise the body count with weird faces. Line Pillet has as remarkable a hold on the camera as anyone else in the film. When you see her, you will know.
The film has created mostly positive responses from those who know what to expect bases on the publicity materials. Those who haven’t have made their voices heard.
If the story could have matched the impeccable visuals, we’d have a classic on our hands. As it is, we have a good film, bordering on great.
(***1/2 out of *****)