“Mandy” is an atmospheric evil cult/revenge horror movie set in 1983 starring Nicolas Cage as Red, and Andrea Riseborough as Mandy.
Red and Mandy are a happy metalhead/yippie couple living in the backwoods. Soon after the movie’s beginning their idyllic existence is disrupted by an evil cult helmed by Linus Roache as Father Jeremiah Sand.
I loved both the two protagonists and the antagonist, they delivered very emotionally charged, and believable, performances. There is a scene without much dialog in which the situation allows for Nick Cage to showcase his dramatic acting talents like I never saw him do it before, you’ll see what I mean when you watch it.
I also felt impressed by Olwen Fouéré playing Mother Marlene. She plays an evil, satanic hag and, I must say, to disquieting levels of creepy.
The cinematography of this movie is totally exciting. The period, 1983, which is like saying 1979-1980, is ably portrayed. The clothes the characters are clad in are appropriate, or at the very least period-agnostic.
They didn’t have many resources in the backwoods to set the tone for 1983, yet I don’t know how they achieved it, but the 1980s feel is there, and for me, it was kind of overwhelming.
All the elements of the cinematography conspire to create a very eerie movie that draws you in with a vintage, psychedelic flavor and feelings that evoke a long-gone era and then shocks you revealing a contemporary-grade meanness to the story that may catch you unaware.
How does “Mandy” Present its Story?
In the first half-hour, it may seem that it’s going to be a slow movie, but it gains speed after that. If you don’t know the logline, you must wait until past the middle of the movie (in fact, until minute 72 or so), to know what’s happening. When that happens, it all falls into place and it becomes much more interesting, and something beyond a simple vengeance plot.
This is a movie that acid heads will love. Around three-quarters of an hour into the story, Mandy is abducted by the evil cult, and drugged; although the fact is not shown. When she regains consciousness the entire scene is one of the coolest, most surreal trippy scenes I’ve seen in a horror movie. Mandy is subjected to a sermon by Jeremiah Sand, the leader of the satanic cult of the antagonists, and this long scene ends in an astonishing, out-of-the-blue big WTF moment.
Even if at the beginning it’s a highly emotional, tranquil movie, and then it flips into a devastating revenge movie, overall this is a very fun movie to watch because a), of how maddening is the scene when Mandy is inveigled by Jeremiah, while apparently under the effects of LSD, b) how Red pours resources into kicking the cultists rear ends in a badass way and c) the special reveal after midpoint when the plot thickens considerably.
Audio of “Mandy”
Go into this movie remembering what I’m going to say: the music is one of the highlights of this movie, even if we are subjected to a musical performance by the antagonist that generates displeasure, bathos, and even pity, the rest of the soundtrack is some top-notch retro-fit ambient with delectably subtle synth-wave suggestions that never make themselves obvious.
The sound is believable and very disquieting in the trip scene when you listen to heavily post-processed dialogue audio that is supposed to sound how a person tripping on psychedelics would hear the voices.
Cons of “Mandy” as a Horror Period Piece
What I disliked of this movie, which I think went too far, was the infodump soon after midpoint when a character explains to Red the relationship between the evil cult that abducted Mandy and a gang of wired, scary bikers. I didn’t like it because I thought that the outstanding characterization for the bikers that the techs of this movie achieved was larger than the script.
The bikers are no satanic Rippy wimps, they look actually like some kind of seriously scary death angels, or demons from hell, like “Hellraiser”’s cenobites. When I saw them, what I actually thought was that they looked like some kind of human-reptilian hybrids. I loved those bikers' costumes.
Another thing that may be misinterpreted about this movie is the surreal, dreamworld sequences it has. I’ve read people saying that because of those scenes they think it happens in an alternate 1983 eastern California, but I don’t think so.
What I think of the alien vistas and fantastic shots of this movie is that is just its poetic way to evoke the feelings and moods of higher dimensions, pretty much like “The Fountain” (Aronofsky, 2006) does most of its running time.
“Mandy” did let me Thinking a lot
I loved this movie because everything that it brings to the table works together to make for a very intense and dark emotional trip. The elements of the story are believable. For me at least they were, and not only as related to the story’s universe, but also to things that are purportedly real.
Thinking a lot about the monsters, I did find parallels with things I learned from the Alien/UFO lore, and those things aren’t openly explained or anything. It was just that very creepy associations came to me when I saw how the monsters acted and reacted.
I think the social commentary of this movie was this: using hard drugs is analog to a personal descent to hell. I’m not going to repeat what the character that reveals to Red what’s happening says because he’s very explicit. When he tells what is wrong with the bikers you realize that is something that could very easily happen in real life, and it’s a horror to think that it could.
What I learned from this movie is that the final effect of a movie is as good as the script, and nothing else, because this movie, on explaining objectively what’s happening kills all the possibilities for more interesting personal interpretations. As I said, the monster bikers look awesome, and is not that they just look like trouble, they are, but I thought that their origin was something more bizarre, like that they were part-demon or something.
Now, what happened to the bikers may have put them in direct contact with demonic planes of existence that mutated them into what they are in the movie. Being that way, it leaves the most creepy subtexts of the movie open for interpretation.
Should You Watch “Mandy”?
If you love horror movies set in the 1970s/1980s, you should have watched “Mandy” already. I’m one of those nostalgia-heads and to find this movie was unexpected and the experience was so melancholic, depressing, and maddening that I knew I was going to write a review of it.
If you don’t think a heavily post-processed movie is cool, even if it’s to evoke a mood, then don’t watch this movie, because it is not for you. On top of that, if frontal male nudity offends you, then also don’t watch “Mandy”, since it has a disgusting (for decent people), long shot of that kind.
Also, if you have (or think you have) had traumatic experiences in which you interacted with demons or extraterrestrials, then don’t watch this movie because it may turn out to be a triggering fest for you.