Horror Club: Mandy
If you are looking for a modern movie that is going to lead you down a road full of drugs, cults, demonic biker gangs and death (and lots of it!) then look no further: MANDY, released back in September, is an epic journey of chaos and blood shed starring Nicholas Cage and Andrea Riseborough. Written by Panos Cosmatos and Aaron Stewart-Ahn and directed by Cosmatos, "Mandy" is a massive two hour long psychedelic action horror movie that tells the story of Red (played by Cage) and his beautiful girlfriend Mandy (played by Riseborough), and in a really brilliant way, "Mandy" plays in two parts: the first hour essentially shares the back story of Red and his girlfriend, as well as the insane events that lead up to the second half of the film, which is filled with all the blood, death, and brutality you could want. I've been told by a few people to skip the first hour and just jump right into the action in the second half of the movie, but I'm going to tell you this flat out: you're going to miss some really great story telling, some absolutely stunning locations and shots, and of course, the calm before the storm that is the second half of the movie. While it may feel like a slow burn, hang in there - the pay off is worth more than I can even put to words. Now that that little disclaimer is out of the way... MANDY.
To briefly sum up this massive story, Red and his girlfriend Mandy live out in the mountains in the 1980s, and their day to day is quiet. Until one day when Mandy crosses paths with Jeremiah Sand - leader of the Children of the New Dawn hippie/religious cult. After becoming infatuated with her, he orders her to be kidnapped (with the help of a demonic biker gang called the Black Skulls, who drink liquid LSD)and so Mandy and Red both end up in the clutches of the cult. After being denied as he made advances to her, Sand becomes spiteful and has Mandy burned to pure ash right before her husbands eyes. And so begins the second half of "Mandy": the revenge. The second half of the film is a brilliant, violent revenge film like we haven't seen before, where Red is on a mission to hunt down and kill every cult member, biker and anybody else who gets in his way. And his kills are absolute insanity as he scavenges the Earth for any living being that could be even partially responsible for the death of his love Mandy. It's the most brutal, violent display of love and affection we could think of, and it makes for one hell of a cinematic experience.
Everything about this film - from the characters and the locations to the action and the gore - is spot on movie perfection. It's visually appealing, and a complete mind trip of a sensory overload. As part of that slow burn factor the first half of the film has, you really grow to appreciate and even envy the relationship between Red and Mandy; they're complete and total acceptance of each other really accents the true love that they share. This is part of what makes the first half so special; so when the kidnapping and mind-games begin with the cult, you really begin to feel emotionally connected to Mandy, and it works beautifully. But since we are a horror review site after all, it's worth noting that the horror aspect of the movie is sheer fucking brilliance. The film spends a few minutes showing Red crafting his own scythe-style weapon, and between that and his cross bow, he's ready to take on some truly despicable, evil fuckers; and he does so with such caress. By the end of the movie, Cage is complete covered in the blood of his enemies, from head to toe. While we are on the subject, while I'm admittedly not very well-versed in Nicholas Cage's filmography, what I can say is that his performance in "Mandy" alongside Andrea Riseborough is honestly sick. From his "in love" scenes with Riseborough to his totally emotional breakdown after Mandy burns to death to his relentless killing spree scenes, Cage fucking brought it from the very beginning until the very end. His facial expressions (or sometimes the lack thereof) speak a million words a minute, and his performance was one of my favorites I've seen from an actor this entire year. Blown away.
What makes the second half of this film so good is not just the blood and death (which are sick, sick, sick) but the complete justification and emotional attachment you have to each kill. The movie does such an excellent job implanting the evil in your head of both the cult members and the biker gang that you know these dudes all had this coming to them, so the revenge kills are just so much better. There's plenty of action, plenty of blood, and plenty to love about "Mandy." Besides being one of the most beautifully shot films, it's story is one of love and revenge, and its something even our cold, black hearts could get behind. "Mandy" is without a doubt a must-see, and ranks up there on our list of top movies for the year, honestly. While "Mandy" may not fall into a hardcore horror genre, it transcends genres to create a beautifully crafted, fully immersive blood fest that will satisfy every craving a horror film nerd could ask for. It's absolutely worth your money, but more importantly, it's worth your time: definitely don't just skip to the half way mark and watch the revenge killing, because without the first half of the story, those are just kills; fully commit to "Mandy," and I promise the rewards you'll reap will be so, so worth it.