Anyone thinking this is a film inspired by the Barry Manilow song of the same name is in for a very nasty surprise.
Nicholas Cage (Red) and Andrea Riseborough (Mandy) are a couple of damaged people who have found love with each other through a shared connection to implied troubled pasts (she has a facial scar and a haunted look, he comes across as unsociable apart from when he’s with her and also has a haunted look), and a desire for isolation from the rest of the world. He’s a lumberjack and she serves in a rundown shack of a store, reading fantasy fiction until interrupted by shoppers. They live in a house which seems to be made almost entirely of window frames. Their life is simple, remote, dedicated and gentle.
But when Mandy catches the drug addled eye of a religious cult leader who is used to getting everything he wants, she becomes his coveted prize. He summons a cenobite style biker gang from hell to get her but, when things don’t go to plan, Red sets out on a violent journey of hallucinogenic revenge, one well worthy of the 1980s video nasties this film so beautifully pays homage to.
Mandy is such a hard film to review because it’s the experience of watching it that makes it so special. Phrases spring to mind like ‘fever-dream’ or ‘hallucinatory trip’ but they’re not enough to convey the absolute single-minded, relentless perfection of the vision and craft that this film presents. Writer/director Panos Cosmatos has created something at once familiar in its reverence towards classic '80s heavy metal and something new in its majestic artistry.
Stunning to look at and with incredible performances from all the cast (Cage’s underwear-clad destructive downing of a bottle of vodka as he descends into despairing madness in a bathroom is astonishing) and with a great villainous turn from Linus Roache, the film also boasts the final and superb score from the late Jóhann Jóhannsson. It throws animation into the mix, messes with your head during some particularly drug-fuelled visions, rewards gore-hounds aplenty and would, had it been released back in the early 80s when it’s set, have certainly been banned on video.
It’s not perfect. It’s a little too long but that’s a minor gripe. The exclusive HMV edition delightfully comes in a VHS style box with postcards and a poster too. The Blu-ray is as good as it can be given that much of the film is supposed to look grainy with haze-filled lighting, and there’s a nice documentary on the behind the scenes making of the film plus some deleted scenes. Buy it.
MANDY / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: PANOS COSMATOS / SCREENPLAY: PANOS COSMATOS, AARON STEWART-AHN / STARRING: NICOLAS CAGE, ANDREA RISEBOROUGH, LINUS ROACHE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW