Nicolas Cage has starred in… let’s be honest… some terrible films. His intensity as an actor has been parodied for years and he has never quite been perfectly cast for this absolutely terrifying madness that he can portray. This all changed with 2018’s Mandy, a psychedelic action horror film. This movie can be summed up very simply; if you’ve ever wanted to see Nicolas Cage light a cigarette using the flame from a burning severed head, then it’s finally here to see.
This entire 2 hour acid trip boils down to a very simple revenge plot. After a deviant religious cult murder the wife of Red Miller (Nic Cage), he sets out on a murderous rampage to seek out vengeance. The first hour and a bit are the set-up, detailing all the exposition and reasons behind the actions. Then, an hour and fifteen minutes into the movie, the film’s title card “Mandy” finally shows. NOW things get really interesting, and the last 50 minutes is an absolute balls to the wall, bat-sh*t, action-filled gore-fest. And it is insane. Chainsaws, knives, crossbows, TIGERS, all sorts show up here in a completely brutal fight of one man against many. It’s pure escapist cinema.
The style and tone of the film is also completely bizarre. The film has a very 1980’s tone about it, from the use of the old universal logo at the start, to the grainy film look throughout and the strange worlds that defy logic. The cinematography is utterly sublime, and I am surprised there are no nominations for it in any of the major awards categories. Benjamin Loeb has done a remarkable job of using many harshly coloured lights and natural fills to create dark silhouettes that have massively religious undertones. It is a stunning film to watch for the visuals if nothing else.
The soundtrack is also a remarkable piece of work. It is the last film to be composed by deceased composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, and this score only cements what a tragedy it is that he is no longer with us. Electronic synthesisers and rock guitars create a brooding and intense heavy metal score that again evokes memories of 1980’s sci-fi films.
Stylistically, the film is very unique. There are images and themes that can be somewhat traced back to Stanley Kubrick, and some of the bizarre experimental techniques are that of David Lynch, but director Panos Cosmatos really has managed to create a unique vision of a hallucinogenic world of planets and gods. This, coupled with Nicolas Cage’s unrivalled rage makes the two hours fly by in a whirl as you are completely whisked away on this confident and assured directorial venture.
Overall, Mandy is a phenomenal piece of work. While the first half is slightly dragging, the second half utterly changes that, and you are left with a ludicrous psychedelic romp with stunning visuals and a truly incredible central performance.