Mandy rocks out to psychedelic visuals while swinging a newly forged battle axe. Welcome to the world of Panos Cosmatos. Is this your first trip too? Well, there are no exits available. Please. Sit back, consume an energy drink or five, and watch the hallucinogenic visuals take over your mind.
Warning! If you are prone to experiencing epilepsy, psychological trauma and the under-appreciation of the “Cage Rage,” then proceed with caution. It really is an unforgettable experience, to say the least. Red and his artistic girlfriend Mandy live peacefully in a cabin near the Shadow Mountains. A cult of “Jesus Freaks” and a demonic biker gang intend to kidnap her but must go through Red first. Activate “Cage Rage” mode!
So, with films like Cosmatos’ Mandy, it is quite easy to categorise this as style over substance. But when the vivid style creates a new layer of substance, well that is something else entirely. Mandy is that something else. Mandy is utterly brilliant. Cosmatos imitates the cult classic vibrancy from the 80s, and in doing so has ensured a cult status for his own film. A simple tale of vengeance is transformed into a psychedelic canvas of dark fantasy.
The mystical art that Mandy draws herself is replicated in the story, when many frames looking otherworldly. A lion roaring against the backdrop of a gas giant shrouded in red mist. A volcanic post-apocalyptic path forms as Red undergoes his quest for personal justice. The ever-changing landscape reflects Red’s love and admiration for not just Mandy’s work, but Mandy herself.
Cosmatos’ visual aesthetic can only be described as unique. The use of lighting, such as red during times of violence and blue for innocence, conveys a plethora of emotions and character motives. The flashing blue strobe lights symbolising the invasion of peace, the blood-soaked orange signifying the hellish embodiment that Red has adopted. The majestic filters used when characters are drugged reassures the intensity of LSD. The similarities between hallucinogenic drugs and the behaviour of devout religious cults are uncanny, and Cosmatos brings this idea forward.
Spellbinding, and frequently entrancing. I found myself hypnotised during the simplest of scenes, particularly when Roache is directly looking at the camera spouting words about God. I couldn’t look away. It held me. My eyes watering by the sheer beauty that was being shown. This is without mentioning the animated dream sequences which also complemented the experimental style of Cosmatos.
However, what really impressed me was the utilisation of Cage. Everyone knows he overacts at the best of times, just look at ‘The Wicker Man’ or ‘Vampire’s Kiss.’ But Cosmatos takes hold of that, and lets Cage loose. He was exceptional. One minute conveying palpable emotion, the next undergoing a chainsaw duel while screaming. Never has a role suited him more. Riseborough, who is incredibly underrated, exhumes elusiveness as Mandy. Beautiful yet psychologically damaged. Perfect casting. Roache as the leader of the “Children of the New Dawn” was tantalisingly unhinged. A noteworthy performance against Cage.
The late Jóhannsson’s score was bloody brilliant, and did not get enough credit. He mimicked a typical 80s score whilst intertwining it with metallic guitars, creating a fresh tone that complemented the visuals. Nearly every aspect of this film is perfect.
However, I have two criticisms. The frequency of scene transitions, which simply faded to black, was high and made the narrative slightly disjointed. It was as if I was playing a video game and waiting for the loading time to complete. I also felt that by the third act the exhilarating pacing lost steam and the hallucinogenic effects were wearing off. Small criticisms, but needed to address them. Don’t let that deter you away though. Mandy is effective. Mandy is psychedelic. Mandy is memorable. Watch it now and I’m sure you will not forget it!