Directed by: Panos Cosmatos/2018
Some have described the new film by Panos Cosmatos, Mandy, a “grindhouse” film because it is a low budget horror/revenge film, that has elements of exploitation that were common to such films. Some, are using this term to praise Mandy, especially after Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez teamed up to bring us Grindhouse, a double-feature of the films Planet Terror and Death Proof that paid homage to the “grindhouse” films that often played back to back for low ticket rates. The result helped bring some artistic respect back to this genre of film, at least in as it relates to the term. Others are using the term to disparage the film, hoping to link it to the low budget nature of classic “grindhouse” fare that wouldn’t earn such films a screening at any “decent” movie house. Both sides make valid points about the term, but each film should still be judged after a viewing of a film, and Mandy is a film that deserves its time in the theater, being enjoyed in a community who loves this kind of film.
Set in 1983, Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) works as a logger, where he lives with the love of his life, Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough), deep in the woods. When Mandy is seen walking in the woods by cult-leader Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache), she becomes the target of the cult who have been ordered to find her and bring her to Jeremiah. The cult offers one of their own members as a sacrifice to ensure the help of three demon-like bikers who seize Mandy and Red and deliver them over to Jeremiah.
Mandy rebuffs Jeremiah’s sexual advances by laughing at him and his hilariously hideous original song that he plays on his record player to entice her to consummate his new lust for her (while she is under the forced influence of hallucinogenic drugs). The cult-leader, to save face, has her placed in a large sack, where she is suspended in the air and set on fire while Red is forced to watch. After they leave, Red must struggle to escape the barbed wire they’ve tied him in, get some weapons, and hunt them all down.
This film will be playing at the Alamo Drafthouse, and they seem to be the perfect theater to show this film. Not only to they love cinema, but most Drafthouse-goers have a unique appreciate for genre films. Mandy is the type of film that will play perfectly for a midnight-horror slot semi-regularly. Panos Cosmatos doesn’t just pay homage to the “grindhouse” style as much as he has truly created another entry into it’s long history, one that truly belongs there alongside its predecessors.
The setting of the 1980’s isn’t an excuse to try to create the look and feel of the times, though it does that through its clothing, and car models, for example. It becomes the mindset of every aspect of the film from its lighting, the dialogue, the cinematography, its soundtrack, its cult-ish themes, and Mandy‘s use of animation.
Colors beautifully fill every frame, especially reds, blues, and even oranges and yellows. For those seeking to disparage the film as “low-budget”, they aren’t looking at the intentionality of these colors, the framing shots that bring them out, or the way they contribute to shaping the story. The soundtrack from the recently deceased Johann Johannsson, who crafted such wonderful sonic landscapes on projects such as Arrival, Sicario, Prisoners, and The Theory of Everything, brings an evocative and heavy synth-driven sound that might remind some of Netflix’s Stranger Things, and mashes it with the classic sound of 1980’s era heavy metal.
Speaking of 1980’s heavy metal, Mandy features several dream sequences that contain animation that are reminiscent of the classic animated film Heavy Metal, with frantic guitar solo’s playing throughout its sequences. The animation is not heavily used, but enough to pay true homage to the art form.
The true reason to see this film, however is Nicholas Cage. Those who are used to seeing a true Cage “freak-out” moment in his more mainstream studio films, will get to see him fully lean into this persona without letting his performance cross the line into caricature. Cage provides some realistically grounded emotions of rage that drive the stronger second-half of the film where he seeks his revenge. Wide eyes, primal screams, and buckets worth of blood cascading down his face unite to form a holistic embodiment of what people want to see when they see a Nicholas Cage character. Oh, and he also wields a homemade ax, crossbow, and engages in a chainsaw fight with one of the cult members!
All that being said, the pace of the film can be extremely slow and laborious, but it so fits the style, genre, and setting that it is aiming for, that you won’t mind too much, that is if you are someone who appreciates the genre. If you don’t appreciate the genre, then fair warning: you will hate this film! For everyone else, make sure you check this film out during its limited run at the Alamo Drafthouse, including the new one at La Centerra in Katy, Texas! This is a film that will be a lot of fun with an audience. Now playing!