Film Review: Mandy

First of all, I was going to review Halloween 2018 for the holiday. You can see those reviews anywhere. It was good. Happy? Now…let’s get to a ‘different’ kind of film.

Mandy

Directed by Panos Cosmatos (Beyond The Black Rainbow)

Limited Release and Streaming

Starring Nicholas Cage

Synopsis: “The enchanted lives of a couple in a secluded forest are brutally shattered by a nightmarish hippie cult and their demon-biker henchmen, propelling a man into a spiraling, surreal rampage of vengeance.”

My Review

I work with a young lady who brought this film to my attention before its release. I feel as though her soul was somehow born twenty years prior to her body and she never ceases to amaze me with her wisdom, spirit, and overall outlook on life. Thank you, KV.

This film debuted to the public in limited release at small, artsy theaters and draft houses all over the country and I never could get my timing right to view it in the intended format. Luckily, modern technology has solved the scheduling problems of the masses and I viewed it in the quiet darkness of my own living room. This film was not intended for the masses. The masses won’t ‘get’ it. As long as you have a nice set up, this is the perfect way to view this film. Small groups of people who know how to keep their mouths shut or totally alone is how I’d want to do this one over and over again.

Nicholas Cage is a deep woods lumberjack (at least that was my interpretation) in the secluded Pacific Northwest. He lives with his trippy, hippy girlfriend in a small house in the woods. She works at a backwoods convenience store and it appears as though life is full of nothing but greenery, trees, books, and art. Then…a carload of crazy Jesus freaks pass her on the road. ‘Freaks’ is an understatement. For the sake of spoilers, this is all I’ll give you of the plot. Let’s just say that the hero puts on his Mr. Cage costume and goes on a quest for vengence!

Best line? “What are you hunting?” Answer: “Jesus Freaks” Reply “I didn’t know they were in season, man.”

This movie is set in 1983 and the director spares no details. The sets, clothing, sounds, visuals, filters, shots…everything! There is a scene where a cult member is rolling an electric window up and down in a van and I actually associated the perfection of that sound to my childhood. The technology in 1983 was new but flawed. It doesn’t come off as a cheap throwback like Stranger Things or the ‘IT’ remake. To me, those seem forced for the sake of nostalgia. This felt as though it was actually shot in 1983. I was ten years old then and somehow this director made me recall EVERYTHING. That, my friends, is talent.

Many people will scream Kubrick and Lynch when it comes to the director’s vision (because Kubrick and Lynch are easy names to scream when you’re trying to sound like you’ve been cultured by the film industry…but this won’t get you laid in my house) but I also saw snippets of early eighties Sam Raimi and James Cameron mixed with some late nineties Rob Zombie (before Hollywood showed him what an open wallet looked like). Vision is everything in this film. The director got a new set of lens filters for Christmas and he was dying to try them out! I’m so thankful he did because it worked. Combined with the unique lighting, it gives the ominous arrival of the demons a much needed kick…but leaves them mostly in the shadows for the sake of the unknown. Near perfect mixture. Watch this film in the dark with NO screen glare! Try not to have flashbacks during the LSD scene. No comment.

Music and sound presentation in Mandy is also on the plus side of things because the director knew when to use it and when to leave the audience in complete silence. It creates an ambiance of peace, foreshadowing, hopelessness, and triumph with pin point accuracy. I found myself on the edge of my seat on several occasions not knowing where the film was going to take me next. I’m a dark fiction writer. This sort of thing doesn’t happen often. With everything combined, I can only think of one other experience in recent memory that gave me these types of chills. It’s a video game titled Outlast 2. Give that one a try if you get a chance. Video games are becoming the new medium of choice for true horror fans in my opinion. Why would you watch someone explore the Overlook Hotel when you could be the one doing the exploration? That’s a hint to video game companies to make one based on The Shining. Please take the hint.

Some will complain about the buildup of this film being too long before the real story of vengeance begins. Those are the kinds of friends you don’t want to watch this movie with. Character development is important! You have to get emotionally entangled with someone before you can feel their pain or purpose. A good writer knows this. Few readers or viewers do. If you happen to be viewing this film with one of these types of people, send them to the back room of the house to view one of the Twilight films on their cell phone. Then, lock them in that room with a dozen rattle snakes and a Luke Bryan album until they promise never to enter your home again. Life is too short to have friends like that.

My only complaint is that this film ended. My son is a 17 year old internationally published graphic designer and I plan on showing it to him as soon as possible. I can’t wait to see how it visually inspires him.

A movie like this rarely comes along anymore. CGI and cut and paste directors have taken over Hollywood and, because of the easily quenchable entertainment thirsts of modern day Neanderthals, they don’t appear to show any signs of stopping. This film will be a part of my personal collection as soon as I can scrounge up a Blu Ray. – C

 

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