Arts & Entertainment Lifestyle

Review: ‘Mandy’ Is a Grisly, Beautiful Trip Through the Surreal

October 6, 2018

The action horror film “Mandy,” directed by Panos Cosmatos, is showing at the State Theatre through early October.

By Andrew Warrick

“Mandy,” directed by Panos Cosmatos, may be the oddest film I have ever seen. It’s a strange hybrid of surreal, sci-fi horror and hyper violent thrills — think David Lynch meets Quentin Tarantino. Nicolas Cage gives arguably his “Cagiest” performance, filled with crazy eyes, bared teeth and an exorbitant amount of screaming. The plot is simple: someone dies, and a man wants revenge. The no-holds-barred performances, neon-bathed cinematography and a smoldering, synth score by the late Jóhan Jóhansson turns a plot that could have been cliché into something entrancing. It is resoundingly terrifying, but artistically striking to the point of sublimity. Ultimately, it’s a horror film wrapped in arthouse technique.

Characters and locations are prone to freezing, reversing or even shifting entirely to mimic a psychedelic break in reality. There are segments that change form, genre and tone in completely unexpected ways that should not be spoiled. At times, the plot becomes a literal trip (most of the characters are on drugs). If this all sounds confusing, don’t worry. It was meant to be. Many will find the plot’s uncertainty and extreme violence too much to bear. However, for those looking for something viscerally unorthodox, “Mandy” is not to be missed.

The film begins by exploring the lives of Cage’s Red and Andrea Riseborough’s Mandy in California’s Shadow Mountains. Mandy is a fascinating oddball of a character that remains present even when Riseborough isn’t on screen. The movie takes its time, relishing in the gothic beauty of the forest and the idyllic life of the couple. A scene where the two speak about the galaxy, while awash in shifting light, is particularly striking. There’s a darkness stalking these characters though. They’re being watched by a religious cult led by Linus Roache’s Jeremiah, another insane performance.

When the cult makes its move, the movie transforms completely. “Mandy” becomes a high-octane revenge story, throwing ideas about character, tension and subtlety to the side. Though clunky, the shift is merited. Cage’s character is consumed by grief and the desire for retribution, and the narrative mirrors that. His performance will be too over the top for some and, at some points, most of the audience was laughing. He descends into another world of cosmic, surreal proportions, where happenings like chainsaw fights and interstellar enemies are commonplace.

Some scenes will burn in the audience’s memory due to sheer shock value. It gets brutally unrelenting, as the body count piles up. For those who can stomach it, though, there is beauty in the horror. “Mandy” was made with the dedication and talent of auteurs. It is something wondrous, notwithstanding the gristly subject matter. To paraphrase one of the film’s characters, “they were in a world of pain, and they loved it.”


State Theatre

233 S State St., Ann Arbor

Showing through Oct. 11

Andrew Warrick is a student at the University of Michigan. He is majoring in creative writing and history, and is a part of the Residential College. He also leads the RC’s Creative Writing Forum. When not watching movies, he loves hanging out with friends, especially in the spectacular Ann Arbor, becoming addicted to novels, and listening to Bowie records. Some of his favorite movies are “Cloud Atlas,” “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” “Twin Peaks: The Return,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Alien.”

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