I’m starting off our Halloween Countdown with the second film from the director of Beyond the Black Rainbow.
Directed by Panos Cosmatos
Written by Panos Cosmatos and Aaron Stewart-Ahn
Story by Panos Cosmatos
Nicolas Cage as Red Miller
Andrea Riseborough as Mandy Bloom
Linus Roache as Jeremiah Sand
Ned Dennehy as Brother Swan
Olwen Fouéré as Mother Marlene
Richard Brake as The Chemist
Bill Duke as Caruthers
Line Pillet as Sister Lucy
Red Miller and his partner Mandy are living a peaceful life in the Shadow Mountains (possibly the ones in Northern California, but theoretically this could anywhere). Red is working as a logger, while Mandy works at a gas station. Both have had a degree of trauma in their background, but they’re making the most of their current life.
And then a group of cultists called the Children of the New Dawn, lead by Charles Manson-esque figure Jeremiah Sand come into town. Sand sees Mandy and decides he wants her – so he sents his cultists and the group of Demon Bikers who work for them to take her. After Mandy rejects and humiliates Sand before his followers he kills her and leaves Red for dead, causing Red to go on a roaring rampage of revenge.
Cosmatos’ two films thus far – Mandy and Beyond the Black Rainbow fit into an interesting form of psychedelic cosmic horror: There are terrible layers to reality out there that exist, and will warp your mind if you are exposed to them – and LSD and other hallucinogens will expose you to them. It came across well in his first film, and it’s handled just as well here, though the psychedelic visuals aren’t as much at the fore here as they were in Beyond the Black Rainbow.
Nicholas Cage here is bringing the perfect level of intensity to the role – he’s not at Vampire’s Kiss or Deadfall level distracting freakout – instead, he has really solid chemistry with Andrea Riseborough as Mandy, so when she dies, we buy him being distraught, and we buy his rage. And then he ends up getting a hit of the Demon Bikers’ LSD and goes kinda nuts in a level that fits with what we’ve been told about the Demon Bikers and (if you’ve seen Beyond the Black Rainbow) how Cosmatos depicts LSD.
Cosmatos’ films are a love-it-or-hate-it affair. The very deliberate late ’70s-early ’80s throw-back visual style, combined with the prominent psychedelic drug themes in their plots, plus some sexual elements (though thankfully without the onscreen depiction of sexual assault – there’s implied offscreen sexual assault), can cause some people to bounce off.
Originality: The film is a somewhat original concept – it takes cues from older films, but puts Cosmatos’ very distinct voice on them. 5/6
Effects: The visual effects in the film are used very sparingly – to the point of almost fitting more into Production than in Effects, but what we get is very well done. 5/6
Acting: As mentioned under the High Points, the performances are very solid from everybody, especially Cage and Riseborough. A couple of the supporting characters are hit-or-miss, but they’re also not on screen for that long necessarily. 4/6
Story: The story is fairly light, with the more supernatural elements coming in around the edges, with some plot questions throughout the story of whether the story is fully supernatural horror, or if it’s more mundane, and the supernatural elements are due to Red’s altered perception, with valid arguments for both. 5/6
Emotional Response: The film’s story gives Red and Mandy enough time together that we understand and support Red’s rage and quest for vengeance. Where the audience might come out of it is how the supernatural come into play, and possibly knocking the audience out of the film. 4/6
Production: The meat of the work in Cosmatos’ films is more in the production – the cinematography and the set design. It was that way with Beyond the Black Rainbow, and it’s that way here. 6/6
Overall: I have liked both of Cosmatos’ films thus far. However, I also very much recognize that some people may very much not like them. While this score is my personal taste, you may still bounce very far off of this. 6/6
In total, I give Mandy a score of 35 out of 42.
October 3/4: Mandy (2018)
October 10/11: Cry of the Werewolf (1944) and Silver Bullet (1985)
October17/18: The Color out of Space (2019)
October 24/25: Rosemary’s Baby (1968): Novel and Movie
Halloween: The Magicians (2015-2020)
(Season One, with subsequent seasons to follow if interest warrants)