An ode to surreal horror, filled with demons, crazy cults and gore. Mandy – movie review

If you go to watch Wandy expecting a two-hour-long mayhem with Nicolas Cage going beyond insane and slicing people up with a chainsaw, this film might disappoint you. In fact, this movie is not what it’s marketed as (not entirely, at least).

In fact, Mandy is what I would describe as “a critic film”, i.e. the type of motion picture so offbeat, unique and that pays extreme attention to the visual style. As a critic myself, I think it’s always important to be open-minded and try to understand the general public’s taste, therefore let me warn you: despite this review and my opinion about the movie, this might not be your cup of tea and you might really hate it.

Unlike what it might seem – just another insane flick where Nic Cage’s personality can be freed of restraints – Mandy was written and directed by Greek filmmaker Panos Cosmatos, whose previous movie (Beyond the Dark Rainbow, 2016) tells a lot about the unconventional approach he’s got towards horror cinema. Furthermore, Mandy premiered at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, a festival that usually sees the participation of “artsy” and non-mainstream movies.

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Sweet Nic with creepy Mandy

With that said, let’s talk about Mandy, beginning with the story that, on a surface level, is about a satanic cult (led by Charles Manson’s lookalike Linus Roache as the cult leader) kidnapping Mandy (Nic Cage’s wife in the movie, played by Andrea Riseborough) and burning her as a sort of sacrifice. Once that happens, all sorts of crazy stuff starts happening – this is the part of Mandy I don’t want to spoil, so I’ll try to explain good and bad of this ambitious film without going into spoilerland.

Continue reading and check my final grade below…

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You’re never really aware of what you’re seeing in Mandy

As I somewhat said before, Mandy is a highly experimental and surreal piece of filmmaking, beginning with its structure. Unlike most films in the cult and revenge sub-genres, Cosmatos’ picture takes its sweet time to get to the sacrifice, which occurs 69 minutes into the runtime! This is what I mean by ‘experimental structure’: the first act is unconventionally long, not a lot happens (to put it mildly) and leads to a second act split into two parts. The third act, almost brutally separated from the rest of the film, happens in the blink of an eye. Also, unlike you might expect, Nicolas Cage’s character (Red Miller) is barely in the movie during the first 60 minutes, where both Roache and Riseborough are given the opportunity to really shine. In my humble opinion, they both gave the best performance in their career.

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The animation in Mandy is quite great

Yet, the visuals are as much experimental as the structure: Mandy is filled to the brim with oversaturated colours, especially blue and red, and the few natural lights used in the film are filtered through a grainy, almost ruined, lens. Title cards, written in an almost fairy tale-esque fashion, appear on screen at random points in the movie; stop-motion animation and hand-drown sequences are intercut between the actual film, adding an extra layer of weirdness and confusion to the whole ordeal.

I told you this is not the movie you expected watching the trailer!

Undoubtedly, Mandy has worth praising aspects: the whole unconventional and ‘artsy’ approach is commendable. I’d pick every day a movie like this over a cookie-cutter PG-13 cash-grab, regardless how entertaining the latter may be. The performances are outstanding all-around, with Roache and Riseborough really taking the cake in my opinion. Don’t you expect what you’re expecting from Cage, though (if you get what I mean), because his performance here is very subdued for large part of the film… even though when he snaps, he really steals the show.

The gore is quite over-the-top, in a fun way (it’s not disturbing gore like A l’Interieur or The Human Centipede: Second Sequence), and the practical effects are mesmerising. Another feature I love about Mandy is the score: always fitting, very 80s (the movie is set in 1983), and badass, to perfectly enhance the sequences that need it.

However, Mandy can be very frustrating (not necessarily bad, though). For example, the length and slowness of the first half of the film can be exasperating: personally, I’m going to attentively watch every movie that has a distinctive visual style, but I wouldn’t blame anyone for finding this first act dull and boring. A couple of scenes seem to be there just for shock value; the jokes are very hit and miss; the ending will displease a lot of viewers due to its somewhat ‘extremely clever’ motivation. Finally, some characters that came straight from Hellraiser really seemed more cartoonish than threatening.

I know I didn’t go too much in-depth with this review, but that’s because I’m going to write a “MANDY – EXPLAINED review” in a few days or weeks… as soon as I figure out what the **** was the meaning of the film! See you then. Cheers!

Mandy                        7/10