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MANDY - 2018
USA Release: Sept. 14, 2018
Piccadilly Pictures, SpectreVision, Umedia, Legion M, Wallimage, XYZ Films
Rated: USA: R

I enjoy a slow burn of a movie that builds up to something powerful. These movies all set their own pace, of course. From 2008's nearly mumblecore MAKE-OUT WITH VIOLENCE to 2018's THE COLOR OUT OF SPACE, there's a power in such movies with their intimate long shots, that hyperactive-edit wall to wall action films, while entertaining, never possess. Such action Horror Thrillers rarely stay with you after the credits roll*.

When Writer and Director, Panos Cosmatos' MANDY came out in 2018 I was leery. Sure it had lots of great film festival buzz, but it was the Arthouse kind of buzz, the kind of folks easily impressed by mere eye-candy, whose bold blurbs fooled me before with Panos' 2010 movie BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW.

When every Bold Typeface shout keeps going on about the "Visuals" you have to ask yourself why they're ignoring the story and the characters.

Stanley Kubrick relied on Cinematography. Great directors rely on a compelling story and fascinating characters.

Now you might ask, "Feo! If you knew all of that going in, why did you bother to watch it in the first place?"

Because BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW is a Horror movie! It's directed by the son of Director George P. Cosmatos (THE CASSANDRA CROSSING, OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN, LEVIATHAN). It's! It's...

*

Yes I'm aware that there are exceptions to that rule. Is there any rule that doesn't have exceptions?

Well hell! It might be great!

Moving on!

As with BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW, Writer and Director Cosmatos begins with a slow burn. In this case, of the happy and content married couple, Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough: OBLIVION, HIDDEN [2015], NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, MINDHORN, NANCY, THE GRUDGE [2020], POSSESSOR) and Red Miller (Nicolas Cage: VAMPIRE'S KISS, KISS OF DEATH, FACE/OFF, SNAKE EYES, 8mm, BRINGING OUT THE DEAD, THE WICKER MAN [2006], NEXT, KNOWING, KICK-ASS, SEASON OF THE WITCH, GHOST RIDER [all], DRIVE ANGRY, PAY THE GHOST, INCONCEIVABLE, MOM AND DAD, THE HUMANITY BUREAU, DARK, LOOKING GLASS, THE COLOR OUT OF SPACE, KILL CHAIN, PRIMAL), who live in a lovely cabin in the deep woods. By day, Mandy either earns extra money serving as a clerk at the local mountain gas station, or creates art in their house while Red goes off to work in the lumber industry.

Neither are physically attractive in the classic Hollywood sense, which serves to make their lives and love for each other feel genuine. For the husky and mellow Red, the petite Mandy is intoxicating, bewitching, and a little intimidating. The things in her head that she commits to drawings and paintings morph into Red's dreams and border on nightmares.

Red would like him and Mandy to leave the forest as soon as this local job is over. Something about the deep woods at night and their isolated location doesn't sit right with him, but Mandy adores their place, it inspires her and so, there they will stay.

Mandy in Red's Dreams

Threat comes in the form of a roving band of shallow New-Age hippies who religiously follow the petulant whims of their Prophet, a selfish man-child named Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache: THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK, THE FORGOTTEN, BATMAN BEGINS, BROKEN THREAD, INNOCENCE, NON-STOP).

Jeremiah has no wisdom to offer, no wealth, even his personality is weak. A narcissistic Tenskwatawa-type personality, nothing that comes out of Jeremiah's mouth is any deeper than the thinnest veneer. However, Jeremiah knows his psychotropic plants and drugs and uses these to control his followers, as well as play upon their individual weaknesses. Some of his group respond well to endless abuse, others will do any thing for praise. All of which is only made valuable by whether or not Jeremiah is pleased. In this way, he manipulates his minute herd into acts of unforgivable cruelty against The Other. For Jeremiah, the entire world is The Other and his God has sanctioned him to own all of it.

One day on the road, Jeremiah rides shotgun. Bored, he openly pouts so that the rest of his crew will notice and try to make him happy.

It's at this moment, driving down a back mountain road to avoid the law, that Jeremiah sees Mandy by the side of the road, walking to her job, and is stunned by her beauty.

I know I said that neither Red or Mandy are beautiful in the Hollywood sense, but when you learn what kind of a dead-weight Jeremiah is and see what Jeremiah is used to among his band of bottom feeders, you'll understand. Mandy is a fruit that's a bit higher on the tree than he's used to.

Jeremiah's group disguise their intentions, scurry in the dark, follow at a distance, before they finally build up the nerve to break into the home of Mandy and Red while the two sleep, defenseless.

Jeremiah's minions

At this moment the slow burn of the tale explodes into a revenge-fueled conflagration, unleashing Nicolas Cage into what he does best. No one does an unfocused and confused man morphing into barely contained rage then unleashed fury better than Cage, because no one can.

Cage can go from being a fly on the wall to devouring the scenery and it still all comes across believable because Cage has a way of unleashing the crazy of his specific character. Nicolas never stops being Red no matter how Un-Red his character is behaving under the harrowing circumstances being forced upon him.

Jack Nicholson himself can't do it without drawing attention to the fact that he's playing template Jack Nicholson, and he's an Oscar winner!

The centerpiece of this tale is, of course, Mandy. Playing off of Red's laid-back blue collar character, Actor Andrea Riseborough carries Mandy's puzzling, mysterious, emotionally intelligent character through the first act of the movie.

In a movie like this, Mandy cannot afford to be a mere cypher if we're going to believe the broken-hearted Hell Fury that transforms Red.

At last Writer and Director Panos combined his love for eye-candy visuals with a fascinating and bizarre story that makes sense within its own cinema logic.

Enriching the story's reach and pace are writers Aaron Stewart-Ahn and Chedder Goblin aka Casper Kelly (YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL [TV]).

Composer Jóhann Jóhannsson's (PRISONERS, ARRIVAL) music rises to the hallucinogenic occasion increasing the intensity of shots that, in silence, are nearly meaningless.

Kudos also go to Linus Roache for making such a weak narcissistic character believable as a leader.

As a villain, Panos made Roache's fictional character similar to actor Michael Rogers character of Barry Nile in Panos' first feature, BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW, nearly interchangeable. The two actors also bear a resemblance to one another.

In the "There Are No Small Roles" department, Bill Duke (PREDATOR, RED DRAGON, X-MEN: THE LAST STAND, THE BIG BANG, FREAKY DEAKY, BLACK LIGHTNING [TV], GHOST TAPE) as Carruthers and Richard Brake (DEATH MACHINE, VIRTUAL TERROR, SOUL SEARCHER, BATMAN BEGINS, DOOM, HANNIBAL RISING, OUTPOST, PERKINS 14, Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN II, LEGACY, THE DEEP [TV], DETENTION, ASYLUM BLACKOUT, THOR: THE DARK WORLD, KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE, THE CANNIBAL IN THE JUNGLE, 31, PERFECT SKIN [2018], FEEDBACK, SANCTUARY [TV], THE DARE, 3 FROM HELL, TREMORS: SHRIEKER ISLAND) as The Chemist are little more than bit parts, yet their roles are pivotal to Red's journey of revenge.

Looking at his feature film output so far, Director Panos, like Stanley Kubrick, is all about the visuals. For this outing, he relied heavily on his Production Designer Hubert Pouille (DUPLICITY [2005]) and Cinematographer Benjamin Loeb: they didn't let us down.

In the realm of Production Design, Mandy and Red's house looks as comfortable and lived in as they do, giving their lives a sedate, somewhat sloppy feel.

Loeb worked on over 20 short movies in eight years before he got the chance to enter the big time. His work on Mandy should catapult him into the A-List.

Bringing their guidance to the project, Producers like the insanely busy Martin Metz (nearly 200 productions in movies and television since 2004!), the even busier Adrian Politowski (over 425 movie and television Producer credits since 2005!), partnered with the significantly less busy but unquestionably talented and Horror Thriller movie driven, Elijah Wood (THE FACULTY, THE LORD OF THE RINGS, SIN CITY, 9, MANIAC [2012], THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, TRON: UPRISING [TV], TOAD ROAD, LFO, THE LAST WITCH HUNTER, COOTIES, A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT, OPEN WINDOWS, THE BOY, THE GREASY STRANGLER, SEVEN STAGES TO ACHIEVE ETERNAL BLISS, DANIEL ISN'T REAL, COLOR OUT OF SPACE, COME TO DADDY) and have all achieved something memorable.

Twisted, spellbinding, provocative, yet never confused or meandering, Panos makes a full recovery from his freshman attempt and hits the stratosphere with MANDY.

Five Shriek Girls.

Shriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek Girls
This review copyright 2021 E.C.McMullen Jr.

Mandy (2018) on IMDb
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