It’s hard to forget a name like Panos Cosmatos, especially when it belongs to the same filmmaker behind 2010’s brain-melter Beyond the Black Rainbow. And it’s honestly remarkable that he hasn’t made a movie since (until now, that is), and although we’ve had to wait eight years between films, his return to the genre was worth every bit of that long wait. In it, outsiders Red Miller and Mandy Bloom lead a loving and peaceful existence until a cult led by the sadistic Jeremiah Sand forces Red into a phantasmagoric journey filled with bloody vengeance and laced with deadly fire.
There are many ways to describe Mandy—surreal, psychedelic, dreamlike, and hallucinatory all come to mind—and yet none of them really illustrate the pure madness of Cosmatos’ film. It’s an ineffable shot in the arm, a film that swirls into a raging nightmare that don’t just watch… you experience. The experience is such an important part of Cosmatos’ storytelling crux because it forces the viewer into a world unlike any other. And that, too, is why Mandy is so damn special—there’s nothing else quite like it, a burning and vicious entity all its own that kicks every bit of ass as its protagonist does.
It’s also a tough movie to review because the story isn’t where the film shines; it’s all about the visuals and the rousing violence within them. But because I have the writing skills of an eighth grader, and thus have no hope in describing the surreal delirium of Cosmatos’ film and its batshit imagery, I want to instead focus on Nic Cage because that motherfucker is brilliant. There’s not a ton of dialog in the film, and the few scenes that have a lot of it aren’t coming from Cage’s Red—he wears all of his emotion on his face and through his actions. Cage’s performance perfectly reflects the film’s mood and atmosphere; you still get the crazy-eyed, unhinged Cage, but more importantly, you get a restrained and emotional performance from him, too. It really balances out the film in a way that I think will surprise a lot of people.
There isn’t much more I can add to the conversation about Mandy that hasn’t already been said—it’s an experience like no other, a bloodletting burst of visual wizardry from a filmmaker that has clearly done ALL the drugs. But joking aside, Panos Cosmatos is a genre visionary and he’s only just getting started with Mandy. Let that sink in. It might only be his second film, but it’s an all-timer that will latch onto your brain and turn it into a colorful, bloody mess.