Nicolas Cage hunts down cultists and an LSD demon biker gang. That should sell you on this movie and if it doesn't then I'm not sure you and I going to get along.
Mandy is the newest from Panos Cosmatos, the director of a bizarre cult flick called Beyond the Black Rainbow and stars Nicolas Cage and Andrea Riseborough as a quasi-off-the-grid couple that live in the woods and are happy being close to nature and away from the masses.
Unfortunately Riseborough's title character catches the eye of a creepy cult leader named Jeremiah (Linus Roache) and that starts the ball rolling on an incredibly violent journey that involves the summoning of demonic bikers, all sorts of mind-altering drugs, chainsaw fights and the crafting of a fantasy axe/scythe hybrid that looks like something Worf would wield in battle.
Right up front this movie's weird. I mean, after that description no shit, right? But it's even weirder than that. The cult leader would fit right in with the craziest David Lynch characters in terms of line delivery and crazy monologues. This is not a movie for the faint of heart or anybody with a low tolerance for a little dash of arty-farty in their exploitation.
I personally have a low tolerance for arty-farty so about 20 minutes into the movie I was on the verge of hating it until it shifts gears and becomes a full on crazy-ass revenge flick and I was a very happy boy.
It helps that Cage takes center stage at this point and dials the crazy Cage meter up to 11. If you have the patience to make it to this point you'll be rewarded.
Cosmatos has a singular vision and that vision is fully on display with every angle and every edit. One thing he does incredibly well is embrace that dreamlike/waking nightmare quality of something like Phantasm or the original Nightmare on Elm Street. You're not quite sure what's real and what isn't and that can be very confusing for a general audience, but it's also what sets this film apart from any any other movie of its type.
The colors used in the movie are bright, in your face primaries. Unnatural greens, reds, blues that can possibly exist in the real world, but give this film an identity that is instantly striking and reminded me very strongly of the way EC Comics would present their horror tales. If you rewatch the original Creepshow they use those crazy colors as well to evoke the same feeling as flipping through those dark comics. Dollars to donuts that style had a big impact on Cosmatos.
I think there'll be a fair amount of people who automatically categorize this film as “so bad it's good,” but that's a mistake. This is not Sharknado. There's real artistry at play here and it's fuckin' bonkers, but there's meaning behind it. The thing Cosmatos gets right is he doesn't forget to be fun. Yes, there's character work and crazy visuals and long, long monologues, but it all leads to an incredibly cathartic, out of this world entertaining revenge story.
FYI: There's a fake commercial in this film (which takes place in 1983) for a product called Cheddar Goblin and it's probably the best thing I've ever seen. It's like if you mixed a Kraft Mac commercial with Ghoulies and it's so amazing. Casper Kelly, the guy behind Too Many Cooks, shot it for this movie and that should let you in on how great this tiny aside in an already bizarre movie is.
One caveat: Elijah Wood produced this film and I have been friends with Elijah since 1998. I don't believe this has impaired my judgment of this movie (Spectrevision, his production company, also did The Greasy Strangler, which is a movie that was absolutely not for me and I've been blunt about my opinion on it), but it is something I want to make sure is out in the open. This is becoming a habit with my Sundance reviews, sorry. Kind of a thing that happens when you've been a film journalist for 20 years. I promise not every Sundance movie was produced by someone I know