Released Sep. 14, 2018
Unrated (possibly NC-17 equivalent for extreme violence, disturbing images, graphic nudity, and language) – 2 hr 2 min
Directed by Panos Cosmatos
Starring Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache

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Mandy (Riseborough) and her boyfriend, Red (Cage) live a quiet idyllic existence in their forest cabin, in need of nothing but each other. That is, until one fateful day, when Mandy catches the eye of megalomaniacal cult leader Jeremiah (Roache) who demands to have her as his own. With the help of his loyal followers and three summoned demons, he storms the couple’s home as they sleep, and everything goes to hell from there.

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If, in the early 80’s, prog metal had a baby with a dark fantasy novel and they raised it on nothing but slasher movies and LSD, that baby would grow up to be this movie. Equal parts visually stunning and viscerally brutal, it starts off slow before spiraling into blood-soaked psychotropic madness.

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In an age of peak entertainment, when there are more choices to compete for the attention of the public than can possibly be consumed, it is exceedingly difficult to earn the title of ‘unique’. It also takes a special talent to be unique and still produce something coherent – something that doesn’t require a deep knowledge of philosophy and mythology just to decode its cryptic and esoteric plot (*cough* Matrix sequels *cough*). Panos Cosmatos accomplishes this feat with acid-brained flourish. He draws his horror influences from a deep and varying well – Lynch, Raimi, Jodorowsky, Kubrick, Hooper, Zombie, von Trier, Argento, Carpenter, Coscarelli, Friday the 13th, and heavy metal cover art, to name some – but establishes enough of his own vision to officially be his own beast.

And speaking of beast, there’s Nicolas Cage. There’s a big difference between roles that Cage takes (which can result in The Wicker Man and ‘Not the beeeees!’) and roles that are written for him, and in Red, he is given a showcase for all his wild and unhinged talents. From quiet and loving husband to drug-fueled killing machine, Cage owns the part. A particular scene stands out, with a broken and bloodied Red stumbling about a bathroom in his underwear chugging vodka and pouring it on his wounds while alternating between rage and despair before finally devolving into a feral growl. He somehow sticks the landing on what should have been laughably absurd.

Yet, Cage’s acting efforts aren’t the only that deserve merit. Andrea Riseborough is both haunting and endearing in her depiction of the tranquil but complex soul Mandy. Her and Cage together effectively convey the couple’s deep, devoted relationship that serves as the springboard to mayhem. Linus Roache is also fantastic as the narcissistic and unstable Jeremiah who, like Charles Manson, failed in a bid for musical stardom but managed to birth a religion from his own self-adoration. From that, Roache crafts a villain that is terrifying and pathetic – at times, seeming almost pitiable before going on to prove he is worthy of none.

Ultimately, Mandy is very much its own highly ambitious thing – a combination of hardcore horror, dark fantasy, arthouse pathos, dry humor, and hippie-era experimental cinema that is made to be loved or hated, but sure to elicit a reaction. Despite a couple quick tone-deaf moments and some funky 2nd act pacing, it’ll be difficult to dethrone this as my top horror film of 2018.

Mandy gets an

gradeAMinusreview
REVIEW RUBRIC

Mandy is now playing in select theaters and available for VOD streaming from major outlets

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