×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Mandy’

Crazed religious cult members make Nicolas Cage very, very angry in this gonzo, stylized horror fever-dream.

Director:
Panos Cosmatos
With:
Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Ned Dennehy, Olwen Fouere, Richard Brake, Bill Duke.

Rated R  2 hours 1 minute

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6998518/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_3

Panos Cosmatos’ 2010 debut feature “Beyond the Black Rainbow” was the kind of movie that divides genre fans into two camps, the enraptured and the infuriated. Visually striking but awfully murky in the realms of plot and meaning, it signaled the arrival of a talent that might prove formidable, or might turn out to be all style and no substance.

Fortunately, his followup “Mandy” maintains all of “Rainbow’s” aesthetic fascination while considerably stepping up the pace and narrative coherency. It will again appeal primarily to artier fan sensibilities — this hallucinogenic mashup of Satanic-cult horror and revenge thriller isn’t exactly multiplex fare — but anyone with a taste for Nicolas Cage in full gonzo mode should get some fun out of its fever-dream progress.

The first half hour or so is more or less a portent-filled romance, with lumberjack Red (Cage) and pulp-fiction cover illustrator Mandy (Andrea Riseborough), two misfits who’ve blissfully found each other in a Pacific Northwest-looking rural area circa 1983. Out walking one day, she’s spied by a van full of religious freaks under the spell of Jeremiah (Linus Roache), whose Messianic delusions have made him leader of the Children of the New Dawn. Senior personnel in his scary-pathetic band of acolytes are the fanatical Brother Swan (Ned Dennehy) and groveling, witchy Mother Marlene (Olwen Foure.)

One glance was enough for Jeremiah to decide Swan & co. must “get that girl I saw” for the Master’s pleasure and spiritual fulfillment. A demonic biker gang whose members resemble “Hellraiser” creatures is summoned, breaking into the protagonists’ hippie-crafted home to abduct Mandy. Once captured, she’s dosed with psychedelics and introduced to the tribe. However, her response to Jeremiah’s assumed magnificence proves less than properly worshipful. Stung, he turns his wrath on the couple, with Red forced to witness his true love’s demise.

Popular on Variety

Though amply trippy, this first act is fairly poker-faced in its use of rich atmospherics and the frighteningly berserk villains. But once a left-for-dead Red manages to free himself from quasi-crucifixion, “Mandy” develops a devilish sense of humor and over-the-top excess well suited to one of Cage’s classic wild-man turns. Generally coated in gore, flaunting a range of weapons from chainsaw to crossbow to hand-forged ritual axe, his crazed avenger hunts down the perps, starting with the not-quite-human motorcycle gang and then proceeding through the ranks of Jeremiah’s “church.”

In terms of disorientating techniques, Cosmatos throws in everything but the kitchen sink, from filters to superimpositions to strobing — adding great gobs of post-production effects to the already arresting widescreen images of DP Benjamin Loeb and the contributions of production designer Hubert Pouille and other key design collaborators. There are even brief animated sequences in a “Heavy Metal” idiom, by Paris-based Banjo Studio. The soundtrack is equally highly worked, though dominated by Oscar-nommed Icelandic composer Johann Johansson’s original score, which sports a variety of textures apt for a movie that often feels like a vintage prog-metal concept album illustrated.

All this should be too much of a good thing, particularly at two full hours’ length. But Cosmatos’ control over his array of stylistic devices is orchestral, even if the story content is gleefully trashy. The eventual fountains of blood and other splatter effects are deliberately over-the-top, underlining that this sophomore feature, though impressively creepy at times, has a degree of self-mocking fun that the more pretentious “Rainbow” lacked.

Beyond Cage at his inventively manic best, there’s an almost unrecognizable Riseborough hitting intriguingly odd notes as the offbeat love interest, while the members of Jeremiah’s warped posse are individualily perverse in ways that recall the “Mad Max” universe. “Mandy” has so many enjoyably whacked-out elements, it comes as an actual surprise that Barry Manilow’s titular 1974 No. 1 hit is not among them.

Film Review: 'Mandy'

Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Midnight), Jan. 20, 2018. Running time: 121 MIN.

Production: (Belgium-U.S.) A Piccadilly Pictures in association with Son Capitol presentation of a Spetrevision, UMedia and XYZ Films production. (International sales: XYZ, Los Angeles.) Producers: Adrian Politowski, Martin Metz, Nate Bolotin, Daniel Noah, Josh C. Waller, Elijah Wood. Executive producers: Nick Spicer, Maxime Cottray, Todd Brown, Christopher Figg, Robert Whitehouse, Nadia Khamlichi, Lisa Whalen. Co-producer: Peter Bevan.

Crew: Director: Panos Cosmatos. Screenplay: Cosmatos, Aaron Stewart-Ahn. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Benjamin Loeb. Editor: Brett W. Bachman. Music: Johann Johannsson.

With: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Ned Dennehy, Olwen Fouere, Richard Brake, Bill Duke.

More Film

  • Colombia’s ‘Valley of Souls’ Wins Marrakech’s

    Colombia’s ‘Valley of Souls’ Wins Marrakech’s Etoile d’Or

    The 18th edition of the Marrakech Intl. Film Festival awarded the Etoile d’Or for best film to Colombia’s “Valley of Souls,” directed by Nicolás Rincón Gille. In his acceptance speech the director said: “Colombia is a country that people know very little about. But in this film I try to offer a glimpse of the [...]

  • SAFF Winners 2019

    ScreenSingapore: Philippines Projects Take Top Prizes at SAFF Market

    Projects from the Philippines took away the top prizes awarded Friday at the conclusion of Screen Singapore’s Southeast Asian Film Financing (SAFF) Project Market. The event is part of the Singapore Media Festival. The winners included director J.P. Habac’s musical comedy drama “Golden” about homeless gay seniors who reunite to perform as drag queens to [...]

  • THE FAVOURITE

    'The Favourite' Wins Big At The 32nd European Film Awards

    Yorgos Lanthimos’s “The Favourite” scooped the 32nd European Film Awards, winning best film, best comedy and best actress for Olivia Colman who previously won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Queen Anne in the film. “The Favourite” was leading the nominations along with Pedro Almodóvar’s “Pain and Glory,” Marco Bellocchio’s “The Traitor” and Roman [...]

  • Ed-Skrein-Erica-Rivas-Fernando-Trueba-Lucia-Puenzo

    Ventana Sur 2019: Big New Titles, Argentina-Mexico, Deals, Trends

    BUENOS AIRES   —  The last few years have caught Ventana Sur – Cannes Festival and Market’s biggest initiative outside France – taking place as the industry debated radical change. This year saw the Latin American industries in a state of  transformation themselves, wracked by headwinds – Jair Bolsonaro’s government in Brazil – or looking [...]

  • 'Free Guy' Trailer: Ryan Reynolds, Jodie

    'Free Guy': Ryan Reynolds, Taika Waititi, Jodie Comer Star in First Trailer

    The first trailer for Ryan Reynolds’ “Free Guy” premiered Saturday at the CCXP convention in Brazil. Reynolds stars as Guy, a bank teller and NPC (non-playable character) who discovers he’s living in a video game. In the trailer, hostage situations, buildings being blown up and people shooting guns off in the street is depicted as [...]

  • KARMELE

    Asier Altuna Preps Basque Historical Drama ‘Karmele the Hour of Waking Together’

    Basque cinema is booming, and director Asier Altuna is part of the vanguard leading it forward. The Spanish filmmaker, behind 2005 Youth Award winner “Aupa Etxebeste!” and 2015 Best Basque Film “Amama” at the San Sebastián Intl. Film Festival, attended this year’s Ventana Sur Proyecta sidebar with his next project, “Karmele, the Hour of Waking [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content