"This Time Mandy Comes with a Bloody Vengeance"
MANDY is an extremely gory, ultraviolent fantasy/horror movie about a man seeking revenge against the hippie cult that murdered his live-in girlfriend. The movie features generally good performances, exciting action sequences, doses of offbeat humor, and surreal cinematography so effective it renders the movie more of an experience than a motion picture. However, the movie features excessive violence and gore, copious illicit drug use, nudity, actual pornography, blasphemy, human sacrifice offered to demons, and anti-Christian imagery. Despite its artistry, its content makes MANDY “abhorrent.”
Red Miller (Nicholas Cage) is a logger who lives a simple life in a remote area of California’s Shadow Mountains with his girlfriend, Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough), in the year 1983. Jeremiah Sand (played to perfection by Linus Roache), the leader of a pseudo-Christian cult known as the Children of the New Dawn, becomes obsessed with Mandy and orders his followers to kidnap her. At his command, one of his henchmen summons a group of demonic bikers known as the Black Skulls by blowing the “Horn of Abraxas” (an occult name) and offering them the blood of a human sacrifice.
The Black Skulls kidnap Red and Mandy and bring them to the cult’s secret lair. However, Mandy belittles Jeremiah and is murdered in a gruesome fashion as Red is forced to watch.
Red eventually escapes and plots his revenge with a medieval arsenal that includes a crossbow and a battle axe. Can he overcome demonic bikers and hippie cultists to avenge his girlfriend?
The plot hardly matters in MANDY. Dream sequences regularly puncture narratives. It’s never clear if the Black Skulls are human or demonic, how Cage gets from place to place, or whether some scenes actually occurred. The movie is meant to be experienced, which sets it apart, to a certain extent.
Director Panos Cosmatos has plunged inside Meatloaf’s “Bat Out of Hell” album cover and brought the world to life. MANDY emulates an adventure in the blood-and-sex-soaked world of vintage heavy metal, which so obviously influenced Cosmatos. To make the homage complete, the recurring, mysterious green glow is an apparent reference to the 1981 animated movie HEAVY METAL.
The result is a trippy, two-hour, genre-bending, horror/fantasy/action-fest. The actors perfectly capture the essence of their characters from the outset, and Cosmatos’ pacing keeps the two-hour movie from dragging.
However, the real star is the movie’s surreal cinematography. The color landscape changes (sometimes slowly, sometimes abruptly), foreshadowing events to come, recreating a mythical heavy metal world, simulating one of the movie’s many LSD trips. Occasionally, one character’s face morphs into another. . . and back again. It is the rare horror movie where special effects other than blood-and-gore have the greatest psychological impact. The soundtrack, the last one produced by the late Jóhann Jóhannson, enhances every scene.
So, who cares whether all the plot elements fit together? The movie springs from excess to excess. At one point, Nicholas Cage combines molten metal and blue heat to forge his very own battle-axe. The movie’s chainsaw duel has already caused tremendous. . . buzz. That said, Cosmatos could have shaved a few minutes off the running time by eliminating unnecessary humor, including a bizarre fake TV ad for “Cheddar Goblin.”
Ultimately, though, the movie’s problem is its excessively immorality and confused worldview. Over-the-top gore, which is sometimes played for laughs, pervades every scene. Three people are burned alive. The movie features an extended scene of full frontal male nudity. Later, a TV set shows an actual pornographic movie, depicting full penetration.
The movie presents the main characters in a strong and loving relationship, albeit out of wedlock. The human sacrifice is clearly depicted as evil. However, while MANDY portrays the hero as a crusader against demonic characters (who may be actual demons), he also calls the Manson-like cult members “Jesus freaks” and apparently abuses a Bible and a church after committing blasphemy. Also, the murderer wears a cross necklace during pivotal scenes of cruelty and violence, and in an important scene a church is set on fire, with the cross going up in flames. Cage also proclaims himself “god” in one scene. None of the evil cult leader’s actions are clearly separated from authentic Christianity, leaving a confused portrayal of the Christian faith at the heart of this nihilistic movie. MANDY is definitely abhorrent.
MANDY simulates what it would be like to walk inside the fantasy world depicted on vintage heavy metal album covers. In 1983, a hippie cult kidnaps and murders Mandy while her live-in boyfriend, Red, is forced to watch. Red eventually escapes, builds a medieval arsenal that includes a crossbow and a battle axe, and returns to avenge his loved one’s death.
MANDY’s plot blends elements of horror, fantasy, and revenge with exciting action. Good performances, a capable soundtrack, great pacing, and strikingly surreal cinematography keep viewers engaged. Ultimately, the movie’s problem is its excessively immorality and confused worldview. Nicolas Cage portrays the hero in MANDY as a crusader against demonic characters (who may be actual demons), but he also calls the Manson-like cult members “Jesus freaks” and apparently abuses a Bible and a church after committing blasphemy. MANDY has a strong nihilistic, false worldview with excessive violence and gore, copious illicit drug use, nudity, actual pornography, blasphemy, human sacrifice offered to demons, and Anti-Christian imagery. None of the evil cult leader’s actions are clearly separated from authentic Christianity. MANDY is definitely abhorrent.