Historically, it’s horror and science-fiction that have always pushed the cinematic envelope. Horror, unlike its somewhat nerdier counterpart is more prone to push, yet get stuck. In fact, just when it seems as though horror has broken out of the confines of its own stereotypes, it often slips back into its comfort zone relying on big weekend grosses without striving for any kind of longevity. We see a kind of stagnancy in horror that rarely affects other genres. It is then concerning when something comes along that looks to push the industry in a bold new direction and the fans rebel against it. So is the double edged sword of ushering in the new…trying to innovate while still paying homage to the ideas and benchmarks that set the bar for an industry known for its rabid fans.
Mandy is going to be a divisive film for fans. I have already seen a wealth of reviews pointedly accusing the film for relying on style over substance. I fall into a camp that settled into a celebration of the film within its first few minutes on the screen.
It is admittedly execution over concept that will win those that praise the film over. The story is simple, in fact over-simplified, in that it is a vehicle for the film to supply the senses with a robust feast of both beautiful and beautifully horrible imagery. Mandy, you see, is a grand exercise in abundance, indulgence and excess.
Nicolas Cage (hey, I can honestly say I have enjoyed Cage’s career and am always excited to see what he’ll attach himself to next) plays Red, a logger who lives for his other half, Mandy (Andrea Riseborough), his purpose, his reason, and his soul. You see a genuine affection here that in the real world would walk the line between passionate and dangerous. The moments between them are BEYOND intimate. They are otherworldly, creating their environment as they breathe and exhude a fantastic isolation that exists solely for them. It is this wonderful fantasy that truly sets the tone for the rest of the film, putting it squarely in a universe that is capable not only of their love, but of the depravity that marks its counterpoint.
When a cult leader ( a wonderful over-the-top performance by Linus Roache) has a chance encounter with Mandy, he is stricken to kidnap her in an attempt to convert her into one of his brethren. The kidnapping results in her brutal murder which catapults the film from its lush rich visuals of warmth and fantasy to the harsh contrast of a psychadelic nightmarish landscape. Red (Cage) having his very lifeforce ripped from him sets to destroy the cult, tearing it apart in the most literal and visceral manifestations of his rage.
Cage is exactly what he needs to be here. He is the embodiment of revenge in Red, a fitting name to a character hell-bent on painting the solitude of his new world in the same color. The gore and brutality here is both magnificent and beautiful. This is revenge in its rawest form of pure wish fulfillment. It is the birth of an unchecked satisfaction of madness and purpose. It is easy to relish in Red’s journey, navigating the surreal LSD infused world of chemically created monsters and lunatics and it is the way the world is lensed that is truly impressive, framing the gore in a wonderful palette of the reds and blues of director Panos Cosmatos‘s vision.
I was taken by the uncompromising approach that Cosmato delivered with Mandy, a twisted, brutal and gorgeous vision of love and violence in its extremes. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.