The horrible thing about fandom is that it can seriously hinder your enjoyment of a film. The most blatant personal example would be Zack Snyder’s film version of Watchmen. So much was riding on that film. Finally a big screen version of one of the most dense graphic novels on earth. Sure maybe it would’ve been better as a TV series or even a film series, but whatever. The end result didn’t meet, much less match my sky high expectations.
Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy is the latest example of sky high expectations but unlike Watchmen, I walked away happy with what I saw. Ever since seeing his 2010 psychedelic head trip, Beyond The Black Rainbow, I would infrequently check in to see when or even if he would be putting out a new movie to match his debut feature. After a while, I assumed maybe his film was just one of those bucket list things. Cut to about eight or nine months ago, I got an email alert regarding Cosmatos, son of the late legendary director George P. Cosmatos (Rambo: First Blood Part II, Tombstone) and his latest film, Mandy. Unlike before, he brought a little starpower in the form of Nicholas Cage. Cue the majestic metal music as the national release date, Sept. 13, loomed closer. Some nerds — mainly ones not located near an Alamo Drafthouse — were frothing at the chance to watch this film on a big screen. Another thing was kinda looming closer on Sept. 13, namely Hurricane Flo.
In a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t-move, an evacuation was announced two days prior which led to the closings of many a business. Naturally, movie theaters — except for the dependable one on James Island — closed until further notice. I can’t speak for other movie obsessed man babies but I’m ashamed to say that I groused over missing the chance to see a damn movie when much bigger, more important things like a natural disaster were very possible. Two weeks later, after waiting and hoping that we’d possibly see Mandy visit one of the big screens with a nice sound system, I settled for watching the film on Amazon with my cat Hank.
So, this movie I’d been dying to see is a simple revenge film with a heavy horror influence. The description from the website I’d been obsessively visiting the past couple of months explains it better than I ever could, “Pacific Northwest. 1983 AD. Outsiders Red Miller (Nicholas Cage) and Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough) lead a loving and peaceful existence. When their pine-scented haven is savagely destroyed by a cult led by the sadistic Jeremiah Sand, Red (Linus Roache) is catapulted into a phantasmagoric journey filled with bloody vengeance and laced with fire.”
I think it’s safe to say that, in more ways than one, the film’s overall bugnuts journey is way more important than its final destination to a literal Hell.
This movie had everything for genre nerds:
• Scene after scene of red lighting and filters bathing practically every minute of the film
• Random appearances by a tiger named Lizzie
• Psychedelic aural and visual candy that would make Salvadore Dali’s face melt
• A metal-infused soundtrack by the late Johanne Johannasson that recalls Ozzy Osbourne era Black Sabbath and Frank Frazetta paintings
• Animated dream sequences that recall the Heavy Metal movie and Rene’ Laloux’s Fantastic Planet
• A TV mascot barfing mac and cheese on giddy children
• A chainsaw fight that would make Leatherface proud
• Even a brief clip from Dom Dohler’s 1982 low budget marvel, Nightbeast
• An all too brief appearance by Bill Duke, known to most folks now as the intense detective in Menace II Society that said “you know you done fucked up right?”
• A psychedelics dealer
• The Chemist, played by genre vet Richard Brake, most recently known for his work in Rob Zombie’s 31
• And, last but not least, Nicholas Cage delivering a performance that reminded me that, when in the right material, he’s more than a meme
Mandy, like Darren Aaronofsky’s Mother! and Ari Aster’s Hereditary, is a polarizing film. For every pretentious movie critic — this writer included — that sees the movie as a work of genius with a unique and bold vision there will be another set of eyes that see a movie that is overlong, weird, and stupid. If I wasn’t so into the aforementioned stuff in the movie, I’d likely view it negatively as well.
As it stands, I liked this movie a lot. I can’t wait to see what Cosmatos cooks up next.
Warning: Mandy contains a sequence of flashing lights, which may affect those who are susceptible to photosensitive epilepsy or other photosensitivities.