The return of ’80s cult classic horror is upon us with this Panos Cosmatos‘ original, gorgeous depiction of an improbable love-gore story in a most unlikely setting ever chosen. Hated by some, worshipped by some, Mandy (2018) is what Only Lovers Left Alive would have looked like if directed by Tarantino. Heavily disappointed to find out there’s only one other movie written and directed by Cosmatos – Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010).
What initially seems to be the story of a misfit middle-aged couple – the lumberjack Red Miller (Cage) and introvert artist/fantasy reader/ex-rock-goddess Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough), who only want to live peacefully in their “little home”, away from civilisation, takes a wrong turn when a Jesus-loving, failed freaking musician and cult leader Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache), a Charles Manson-alike character, becomes obsessed with Mandy, whom he sees on the road from his car window, and decides to send his henchmen to get her.
First part of the movie seems unreal, outwordly. A never ending fairytale rich in mystical and mythical imagery, hard to digest parables and anecdoted, such as the one about the chirping starlings killed with the crowbar by Mandy’s dad when she was only a kid. A first omen that the filmmaker is not really right in the head, and smoothly disrupts the overall kumbaya atmosphere the movie had up to this point.
Spoilers ahead! Long story short, the religious incestuous freaks conjure a group of motorcycle demons to capture Mandy, which they succeed, after the usual offering takes place. Jeremiah drugs Mandy up with venom and tells her that she’s basically the chosen one, to serve him, and live by his side, and basically suck his dick (he actually strips in front of the poor, tripping on acid woman, to emphasize it). But as charming as this marriage proposal was, Mandy wouldn’t have it. Out of a mixed feeling of rage, fear and confusion, she laughs her ass off at Jeremiah’s fake grandeur attempt and small dick, respectively. That’s why she’s killed for it, burnt to ashes in front of a now barbwire-tied, stabbed between the ribs Red Miller.
Jeremiah and his gang basically move one with their caravan, like nothing happened, leaving Red to die. Rookie mistake! Red manages somehow to escape, and after drinking himself to coma, he plans to get his revenge. He starts by visiting his old brother-in-arms, Caruthers (that’s right, bitchez! the lumberjack fought in a war, he’s ex-military!), to get weapons and intel. This is where the trippy fairytale story ends and real-gore starts, because we now find out that the so-called demon-bikers are simply just a gang who took a special batch of LSD back in the days and never been right in the head since. They just kill per request, in exchange for some more of that shit.
Although according to his pal, Red’s chances to come back alive from his vendetta are virtually non-existent, the lumberjack ignores it completely and prepares himself as such, by creating his weapon of choice from scratch (ooh, that rhymes!) – a beautiful axe worthy of World of Warcraft (supposedly a homage to metal band Celtic Frost).
Nicholas Cage really came back to his senses with this role; outstanding acting, sublime punchlines. As a story, the overall movie doesn’t bring anything new: the revenge motive, the one man army, the unlikely couple, all overused in cinematography. What’s this movie worth watching for is the incredible, well designed sceneries, breath-taking atmosphere and flawless acting. The film mixes dark fantasy literature, religion and ocultism, synthwave and metal subculture and slasher subgenre, by putting the psycopath killer in a good light for once, giving him personality, justice and eventually comfort.
There’s probably a reason why it got 5 min. standing ovation at Cannes. That, or we’re all simply a bunch of weirdos who get excited watching people ripped apart by chainsaws while listening to psychedelic rock.