WARNING: This post contains light spoilers!
Greetings, readers. Tonight is Devil’s Night and, in order to keep to that most diabolical of spirits, I offer you a post on, to paraphrase the friend who recommended it, “a really fucked up movie”: Mandy.
Nicolas Cage plays the protagonist, Red Miller, who, from his opening scene in the woods, and general affinity for chainsaws and axes, I assume is a lumberjack by trade. It’s not really made clear and it doesn’t really matter, because, look, it’s freakin’ Nic Cage. I’ve never not loved Nicolas Cage in a movie, and he’s pretty much at his Cagiest here, displaying his usual unhinged gusto as soon as the action starts.
So our protagonist lives an idyllic life with his wife Mandy (played by a chain-smoking, Black Sabbath shirt-wearing Andrea Wiseborough), until a Really Bad Thing ™ happens. Red gloriously loses his shit as only a Nicolas Cage character can, and proceeds to indulge in a surreal roaring rampage of revenge that features a chainsaw duel.
Seriously, I should not need to write any more than these two words for you to decide whether this is your kind of movie or not. And, if not, we probably can’t be friends.
This said, Mandy is most definitely not a film for everyone. Its first act is a ponderous affair with loads of psychedelic imagery, and the initial slow pace alone might discourage some viewers. It’s surprisingly tame, too; For instance, a “sex scene” (really just two people lying in bed, fully dressed) contains such subtle, clever innuendo (Galactus “eating” planets, if you know what I mean, ha ha!), that, early on, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is some sort of very trippy romantic drama.
You’d be very, very wrong.
As soon as the proverbial fecal matter hits the fan, Mandy becomes a hellish, if colourfully gruesome, ride. Have I mentioned the psychedelic imagery? This keeps up throughout the film, even as Red viciously dispatches members of an evil cult of “Jesus Freaks” led by one Jeremiah (Linus Roache, who’s chillingly convincing here as a petty, egotistical, Charles Manson-like figure). The cult itself seems to be a mix of Manson Family-style hippies, archetypal rednecks, and rejected Cenobite designs from Hellraiser. If I have ever seen a movie custom-made to be watched high, it’s this one.
Don’t ask me how I know that.
The film is divided in chapters, adding to the surreal, quasi-storybook style. For instance, the first chapter is called “The Shadow Mountains”, which, even though it’s named after a real location, wouldn’t be out of place as the title of some obscure 80’s fantasy adventure movie.
Indeed, with its neon colors, droning synth soundtrack, and characters who have clearly snorted mountains of cocaine (some on screen!), Mandy fully embraces the 80’s aesthetic; as a visual and auditory experience, it is certainly one of the most “synthwave” movies I’ve ever seen. Heck, it’s even got some animated segments reminiscent of Heavy Metal.
It’s also replete with cult movie references, from the aforementioned Hellraiser, to Friday the 13th, to Highlander (the Chainsaw duel is apparently intended as a reference to Phantasm II, but I definitely got a Highlander vibe from it, right after I was done thinking about Resident Evil 7). The movie itself looks and feels as the love child of The Crow (replace the “coming back from the dead” angle with “Nic Cage losing his shit”) and Hobo with a Shotgun, with a splash of Evil Dead on the side. Heck, I could see Mandy being set in Hobo with a Shotgun‘s universe, if only because of the very similar visual styles.
Underpants Hobo With a Bottle of Vodka, anyone? No?
In conclusion, if you are a fan of trippy horror movies or the 80’s in general, you should watch Mandy. If you are currently high, you should drop whatever you’re doing and go watch Mandy, right the hell now. And if you are sober and don’t enjoy any of the above, why are you even reading this? Shoo, stop reading this crap, and go do something productive with your life, like punching Nazis or voting some orange weirdo out of office.