Imagine a film that contains the Cenobites from Hellraiser, the costumes of Mad Max, and the goriness of Evil Dead. Combine those elements and you have Mandy, a film that is a fun and wild romp, complete with blood-soaked cinematography that feels like a fever-dream and LSD trip through the various layers of hell.
Directed by Panos Cosmatos and set in 1983, Mandy stars Nicolas Cage as wild-eyed, vengeful Red, who tracks down cult members responsible for the brutal murder of his lover, Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough). The first quarter of the film takes its time establishing their relationship. They cuddle and watch movies together. They share the bizarre dreams they’ve had, and they seek refuge in the wooded Pacific Northwest, away from whatever is happening to the rest of the world, which we don’t know. The cinematography early in the film features a color palate of mostly greens and blues, reflective of Red and Mandy’s refuge. The colors and wooded scenery are inviting. How can anything bad possibly happen?
The rest of the movie, following Mandy’s murder, is awash in blood and various shades of red. Cage spends most of the film with a blood-splattered face. His facial expressions range from the maniacal to the hilarious to downright furious. The film is not without its one-liners, too. As he murders one of the biker demons summoned by the cult, he calls the creature a “vicious snowflake” and then quips, “you ripped my shirt!”
Nicolas Cage as Red
Though she’s not in the film long before meeting her demise, Riseborough is noteworthy in her performance as Mandy, especially when she laughs in the face of Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache), a Charlie Manson knock-off who forces her to listen to his terrible music, which causes her to have a laughing fit. Mandy’s resistance shows just how absurd and fragile Sand’s masculinity is. You’re also left wondering if Mandy has some connection to a higher plane, due to the hallucinatory dreams she has and her interest in the occult.
Andrea Riseborough as Mandy
Mandy is not a perfect film, but my only real complaint is that it doesn’t take enough time building its world. What exists outside of Mandy and Red’s refuge, for instance, and what causes them to seek their own spot in nature? That gripe is minor, though. I assume that years from now, Mandy will be screened at midnight showings, earning applause during certain lines and scenes. There’s even a chainsaw battle in the last 1/3 of the film! Mandy has all the makings of a grind-house classic.