- Emma Simmonds
- 8 October 2018
Nicolas Cage is at his maniacal best in Panos Cosmatos's wild, psychedelia-infused horror
This fever dream turned flat-out nightmare could hardly be more cult – from its subject matter (the pursuit of a group of heinous 'Jesus freaks' by a delirious vigilante) to its wicked and wild execution. Merging turbulent synth and heavy metal with hallucinatory, old-school visuals and unhinged performances, director Panos Cosmatos harnesses the full transportive power of cinema for a psychedelia-infused horror that walks its treacherous path at a ponderous pace.
In 1983 mild-mannered lumberjack Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) is living blissfully in a romantic woodland idyll with Andrea Riseborough's ethereal Mandy, an artist / convenience store employee with her head buried in fantasy fiction. When failed musician turned drugged-addled religious leader Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache) rolls through town, the pair are placed in terrible danger, not least as Jeremiah and his Manson family-esque gang have a group of 'gnarly psychos' waiting in the wings.
Mandy is one of the final films to benefit from the genius of Jóhann Jóhannsson (Sicario, Arrival), whose score compels and consumes it – the atmospheric bellowing is enough to make your ears bleed, while the red, raging visuals come courtesy of cinematographer Benjamin Loeb. The influences are many (Hellraiser, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Last House on the Left) but there's enough head-spinning idiosyncrasy for it to simultaneously feel fresh.
Although this intense blast of phantasmagoria wears a heavy cloak of fear and tragedy it is punctuated by the kind of crazed levity perfectly suited to Cage's peculiar skill-set. The actor is positively in his element showcasing his gift for outlandish antics, whether screaming in a luridly patterned bathroom, tangling with a butt-naked demon, or fashioning a giant axe.
In fact, the casting as a whole is inspired: Riseborough is eerily bewitching, Roache droolingly maniacal, Bill Duke's cameo couldn't be more welcome, while Ned Dennehy and Olwen Fouéré are the epitome of creepy cultists. If Mandy errs unashamedly on the indulgent side – the two-hour runtime can feel a roomy fit for a revenge narrative – it's predominantly, often hellishly immersive.
General release from Fri 12 Oct.