Written by Panos Cosmatos and Aaron Stewart-Ahn
Directed by Panos Cosmatos
Starring Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache
I went into this film expecting nothing but blood, synth music and Nick Cage, and if that’s not already enough to sell you on a film, let me tell you, it somehow manages to get better than that.
Set in the American rocky district in 1983, Cage plays a lumberjack living a life of solitude with his wife, a shy bookworm played by the daunting presence of Andrea Riseborough, whose performance in Black Mirror still haunts me to this day and fits perfectly with the tone of Mandy.
Through her reading she has a vision of a mysterious cult of ne’er do wells travelling through the country, a group who we quickly learn are also well aware of her. And, led by the unhinged Jeremiah (Linux Roache), they force Mandy and Red kicking and screaming into their world.
This film is a B-Movie symphony, with every piece of inventive filming technique used in unison to create a true masterpiece of nerve-shattering horror. The lighting paints the introduction to each chapter and promotes the feeling of each setting and scene, matching the emotion of the characters, their clothing and the invasive nature of two worlds colliding.
This approach draws you in visually with the constant changing of slow, drawn-out shots and quick chopping between characters. One early scene stands out as a great example of this. Cage and his wife are watching TV in their home, bathed in warm oranges and yellows to match the ridiculous tiger shirt he’s sporting that could only be a product of the ‘80s. He goes outside for a smoke and looks out to the silent green of the forest, and you expect a jump scare but you get…? Nothing. Then cut to the calm blue of their bedroom and another panning to the empty blue of a silent night and suddenly, blood red and finally the return of the expertly used score of the music starting the spiralling crescendo of the characters and the audience into hell.
The music not only gives you that full ‘80s flare but is a true tool along with everything else in the film. Sometimes seldom used at all and sometimes making the nightmare of a scene all that more real, Jóhan Jóhannsson has created a hauntingly magic score used in a way I haven’t seen since Hans Zimmer in Bladerunner 2049.
And the cast? Well aside from every actor being a scene stealer in even the smallest of roles, Cage is the stand out for me. He’s the lynchpin that ties the two halves of the film together. Firstly in a kind of Shining-esque prologue which shows us the normality of this untouched and innocent world, before going full Natural Born Killers in the second half.
I can’t imagine anyone else in this role after seeing Cage truly unleashed, and his bonkers nature from films like the Bad Lieutenant is the perfect match for this drug crazed, chain smoking, absolutely psychotic avenging angel. His intensity and the pure physicality of performance makes the film a stand out even if you ignore the rest of the demonic villains, nostalgic horror nods and downright hilarious additions (such as the chainsaw scene.)
You need to see this film right now. Easily one of the best films of 2018. The lighting, sound, acting, animation, cinematography are all turned up to 11 making for a bloody perfect movie.
The writer of this piece was: Indiana “Indy” Marlow
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