If you’ve ever asked yourself “What the fuck did I just watch?” just wait until you get a load of Mandy. The avant-garde metal midnighter from Italian director Panos Cosmatos yields a phantasmagoric descent into hell itself, where none other than Nicholas Cage (in all his unhinged glory) plays a logger named Red Miller who hunts down an LSD-fueled Christian cult and a literal biker gang from hell to avenge the love of his life (Andrea Riseborough, rocking a heavy metal Shelley Duvall look) . Turns out, hell hath no fury like a Nicolas Cage scorned.
Mandy is quite simply unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. It’s a bit like if Gaspar Noe remade Devil’s Rejects, but in actual hell. There are flashes of Sam Raimi and David Lynch. It’s 70s grindhouse exuberance meets H.P Lovecraft. Mandy has this heavy metal Thunderdome on drugs aesthetic to it, decorated with almost medieval weaponry, and pulsing with stabs of primary colors. Cinematography Benjamin Loeb holds us hostage to his hallucinogenic light show, as if we’re trapped in Colonel Kurtz murder hut, an incessant Lite Brite strobing across the scenery, a glitter hog on a spit. The Mandy experience is like a memorably bad trip; it’s somehow way more wild, alarming, and strangely hilarious than can be put into easy words.
Cosmatos’ otherworldly creation is an enigmatic mind-fuck. There’s not really characters here, just a series of nutty soliloquies, full-term psychosis, and bugged out eyeballs. The story is narratively barren though (maybe?) thematically rich. There’s real pain present and Mandy thrives when it cranks things so far past the realm of normalcy that the dial breaks. There’s a man with a golden gun and a Bengal tiger named Lizzie. Random animated dream sequences and pornography sometimes blaring in the background. A chainsaw duel. And perhaps the greatest fake commercial of all time (“Gobblin’ Cheddar”).
Never backing away from the towering inferno of insanity at Mandy’s soul, the script from Cosmatos and co-writer Aaron Stewart-Ahn is loaded with characters with names like Sis, Scabs, Fuck Pig and Dog the Dog. Rambling like a madman at times, the dialogue is gloriously over-the-top, with Cage delivering clunky but still effectively hysterical zingers like, “You’re a vicious snowflake”. Somehow, it all works, humming off a kind of skewed, gonzo dream logic. Every corner of the feature is buzzing on LSD – little tabs of doom that tinker at one’s mind and make one’s skin crawl.
At one point, Red forges the most memorable battle ax in a movie probably…ever? He also, out of the blue, uses karate to take out an enemy. Like a drunken sound guy on a studio movie lot, Mandy wanders in and out of genres, rarely caring for any sense of normative value. Along the way, the movie transforms from a drugged-out nightmarish Dantean ramble into a medieval revenge fantasy, all complete with literal geysers of gushing blood. I’m pretty sure I have no idea what actually happened but I was laughing giddily the whole ride. Mandy is without a doubt the craziest movie of 2018 and likely one of the craziest movies I’ve ever seen. It’s also a complete and total hoot.
To watch Mandy is to submit to Mandy. All who do so agree to have their minds gorged in two; their brains scooped out like a jack-o’-lantern. Movies like this just aren’t made on a day-to-day basis because if they were, we’d all be in a psych ward. And Nic Cage is more than game for all the frenzied derangement; he’s indisputably channeling Bruce Campbell from The Evil Dead, zoned out in a state of grisly crimson mania, absolutely soaked with blood and body parts. He just looks fucking crazy and it’s beautiful to behold.
It’s impossible to not also mention Johan Johansson’s synthy heavy metal score which takes on a total cryptic personality of its own, filling in the gaps between words. The Icelandic composer, a frequent partner for Denis Villeneuve and Academy Award nominee, recently passed away from an accidental overdose, and this is a truly hellish swan song. Hopefully he’s somewhere (anywhere) better than whatever is depicted in his final feature.
CONCLUSION: ‘Mandy’, about Nic Cage exacting gory insano revenge on a Christian murder cult, is a slow-motion gallop into the pits of hell and cinematic excess. Its singular lunacy is at once cultishly hilarious and freaky AF, the free-flying blood arrives in no short supply and Cage is as ferally wild as he’ll likely ever be onscreen. Deliciously weird, undeniably frazzling and impossible to put in a box, ‘Mandy’ is mania made movie.