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Mandy – film review

October 10, 2018


Panos Cosmatos delivers a Heavy Metal fever dream.

Reviewed on Tuesday 2nd October 2018

Directed by Panos Cosmatos. Written by Panos Cosmatos & Aaron Stewart-Ahn. Starring: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache and Ned Dennehy. Running time: 121 mins.

A chainsaw-wielding woodsman embarks on a revenge-fuelled killing spree after his beloved is brutally murdered by a band of demon-worshipping cultists.


Panos Cosmatos had never intended to make another film following his 2010 feature debut – the trippy sci-fi thriller Beyond the Black Rainbow. So it came something of a surprise when Mandy appeared on the radar (seemingly unannounced).

Nicolas Cage plays Red Miller, a simple lumberjack living in a secluded cabin in the woods with his beloved artist wife Mandy (Andrea Riseborough). The couple’s idyllic existence is thrown into brutal disarray when cult leader Jeremiah (Linus Roache) takes a fancy to Mandy and has his creepy drug-addled band of followers raid the property – taking the couple hostage in a bid to convert Mandy to their cause. When Mandy refuses his advances – humiliating him in the process – Jeremiah has her brutally killed while Red is bound with barbed wire and left for dead. Freeing himself, and armed with an assortment of weapons, Red embarks on a bloody quest of vengeance – encountering demonic bikers from hell along the way.

Screenplay-wise, the narrative is fairly straight forward with minimal dialogue – allowing for the film’s evocative imagery and immersive (dare I say Lynchian) soundscapes to be fully appreciated. Unlike most films these days, this film has     room to breathe, create a mood and draw you in.

Despite what one might think of Nicolas Cage – whether or not he can still be taken seriously as an actor, his performance here is one of his more subdued and less cartoonish ones – suggesting Cosmatos was free to rein him in to a certain degree. The remainder of the cast (particularly the cult members) are well chosen in their     roles – the standout being Linus Roache as Jeremiah. Andrea Riseborough (virtually unrecognizable from her role in Oblivion) is also very good.

Clearly a child of the 80s, Cosmatos says he drew inspiration from the lurid box art and back cover plot descriptions of R-rated videos in his local store – movies he was too young to see – but fired his imagination. Taking place (as does Black Rainbow) in the year 1983, the film is filled with obvious and not so obvious references to classic cult movies from the 80s (with nods to such films as Evil Dead, Hellraiser, Heavy Metal and Altered States being most in evidence). Cosmatos however seamlessly blends these elements into the very fabric of the film, so the overall effect is a singularly cohesive vision which is very much its own thing. Indeed, so unique is Cosmatos’ vision that it is virtually impossible to compare Mandy to anything that     has come before. It truly is one of a kind. Mesmerizing.

As with Black Rainbow, Cosmatos again utilizes anamorphic lenses to great effect; the super-wide properties of the lenses lending a super-immersive aspect to the images. Featuring highly-saturated colors rarely seen in modern films these days, the cinematography by Benjamin Loeb also creates many moments of startling beauty. Interestingly, while shot using modern-day 4K, the image appears to have been deliberately degraded to give it that classic grungy 80s B-movie look. The score by     the late Jóhann Jóhannsson (whose final score this is) also leaves an indelible impression, perfectly augmenting the sense of dread and intensity in certain scenes.

Whilst Beyond the Black Rainbow clearly has its fair share of admirers and detractors, it wouldn’t at all surprise me if Mandy is, in time, hailed as something of a sleeper hit cult classic. In the meantime though, and much like Darren Aronofsky’s aggressively divisive Mother! – I also suspect the audaciousness of Mandy will either be enthusiastically embraced or derisively dismissed – no in-between. But then again – isn’t this the very thing which characterizes a cult movie?

An LSD laced fairy tale for adults – a luridly beautiful, heavy metal-inspired fever dream, Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy definitely demands more than one viewing – perhaps even several. And this is something I very much look forward to doing very soon.

4.5 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4 – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Viewed at the Event Cinemas Marion, October 2nd 2018

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos     and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies. Greg can also be heard on the Blu-ray commentary track for the 1980 sci-fi thriller Saturn 3, out now from Scream Factory.

From → film reviews

  1. If it hadn’t been for Johannsson’s score, I probably would have passed on this if only because of Nic Cage’s involvement. I’ll never forgive him for his lousy taste in film projects, including his epic laziness in Season of the Witch, where he played a Crusader with his usual Elvis-like drawl, not even trying to adopt anything remotely like an English accent. The guy used to be able to act but just degenerated into a becoming a self-parody.

    Anyway, I might get around to this on a rental- its cinema release here in the UK was slim to non-existent and the Blu-ray is en exclusive to HMV stores- its actually like the film company doesn’t want anyone to actually see this film in this country, its so under the radar. With its ’80s vibe, that Johannsson score etc it does look right up my street.

    Appreciate the spoiler-free approach as always mate. I had no idea the actress in it was the girl from Oblivion- thats almost De Niro levels of transformation.


  2. Yes! I came here specifically to see if you’d reviewed Mandy. I knew I could count on you! 😉 I’m now convinced to travel all the way into London to see this as it certainly isn’t showing anywhere near me. Sounds bonkers. I love bonkers.


    • gregory moss permalink

      Hey there table9. You can always count on me to cover the weird ones. 🙂 And I’ll be keen to hear your take on it – as it’s definitely worth seeing in a theatre – just to get that fully immersive experience.


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