Directed by Panos Cosmatos, MANDY (2018) is a bizarre revenge horror film with a hallucinogenic atmosphere, gallons of blood, Nicholas Cage, a crazy haunting metal score by Jóhann Jóhannsson, and plenty of visual elements reminiscent of ’80s metal band album covers and ’70s horror flicks. The sum far exceeds its by-turns ponderous and ultra-violent parts, though it doesn’t really add up to much. Just sit back and enjoy the experience.
The film begins in 1983 with Red (Cage), a Northwestern logger, returning home to his hippie artist wife Mandy (Andrea Riseborough). Their relationship is expertly drawn in quirky conversations, familiarity, and a deep, quiet connection that works well on screen. Unfortunately, Mandy catches the eye of a cult leader (Linus Roache), who summons his allies, a trio of bikers deranged and deformed by a special brew of LSD, to abduct her for him. Red escapes and for the rest of the movie rages a bloody swathe of death and destruction on the people who wrecked his life.
There are some wild set pieces in the film, such as Red fighting the demonic bikers, Mandy meeting the cult’s leader while under the influence of an exotic drug drawn from a hideous giant insect, and Red in his underwear downing an entire bottle of vodka and howling his grief, which starts off sad before plunging into the absurd and then becoming even sadder. It’s all good metal band cover fun, and Red’s revenge is a dark road trip into hell.
The film might have worked better for me, though, if the cult was more interesting, and what they worshipped was real. The cult gets a lot of dialogue, though little of it is interesting. Cosmatos seems to go out of his way to say, “Here are the stock villain cultists you’d expect in the ’80s,” which gave Cage something to fight but otherwise not much to appreciate. The bikers and their back story were far more fun. So in the end, the movie feels deep, which gives the very basic revenge story some mythic resonance, but the antagonist fails to join the party, weakening the movie for me.
In the end, I liked it and give it an A- for visuals, atmosphere, and crazy, but a B/B+ overall. Despite that overall score, I recommend it for anybody who likes horror movies, as it’s a unique experience that creates something new and somewhat powerful from our memories of the old.