by Steven Allison

Mandy – A rip-roaring, fiery ride of a film

In the final installment of his underreported horror movies series, Steven Allison begrudgingly casts aside his feelings towards Nicholas Cage and tackles Mandy, a film highly-acclaimed for its take on revenge 

Mandy - A rip-roaring, fiery ride of a film Subscript
The movie poster for Mandy, starring Nicholas Cage and Andrea Riseborough (Image: By Source, Fair use,

In this week’s review, we’re sizing up Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy, the third and final instalment in our Revenge In Horror series. Now,for the sake of full disclosure, it’s only fair to come clean about something right off the bat here – I don’t care much for Nicolas Cage. There, it’s been said. There’s just something so inherently irritating about him which impedes the ability to enjoy any film he makes an appearance in – Mandy being an exception (to some degree).

However, following a series of chats with fellow horror enthusiasts, it’s become painfully clear I’m sailing against the wind slightly with this one. Since it’s release, Mandy has received widespread critical acclaim, not only for its fresh, highly-stylised take on the theme of revenge, but also for its arresting action sequences and outstanding acting. 

Nicolas Cage, in particular, has been praised for his skilful portrayal of the wronged boyfriend. Fans are overjoyed at his return with more of that familiar Cage rage, while I’m just left with rage for the Cage.

As with any review, fairness dictates a degree of objectivity – even if just a modicum. For that reason, a steadfast attempt will be made to cast aside all Cage-based bias. Here goes.

“Cage has been praised for his skilful portrayal of the wronged boyfriend”

Mandy, directed by Cosmatos and co-written with Aaron Stewart-Ahn, has two very distinct parts. The first of these sets off fairly sedately: it’s 1983 and we’re somewhere near the Shadow Mountains in the Mojave Desert of eastern California.Forest worker Red Miller (Cage) and his artist-cum-cashier girlfriend Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough) live a peaceful,reclusive existence. Mandy is glad to be free from a troubled past, whereas Red makes it known he craves something more. And he gets a hell of a lot more than he’d hoped for.

The film quickens its pace as the couple encounter The Children of the New Dawn, a depraved, satanic cult. The intimidating leader Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache) becomes obsessed with the beguiling Mandy, and with help from the Black Skulls – a gang of grim, sadomasochistic motorcyclists with a lust for human flesh – he captures her. In an ethereal, psychedelic seduction scene, a drugged-up Mandy musters the wherewithal to mock Sand – a move that leads to her fiery end with Red forced to watch. And the tone for the remainder of the film is set.  

Part two is a bloody quest for retribution in which Red employs a force majeure to destroy Mandy’s transgressors. Assisted by a gruesome arsenal of weapons, featuring a home-made battle axe and a chainsaw (be prepared), they are slaughtered into atonement one by one as he stampedes towards his final objective. The mangled outcome of that – well, you’ll just have to find out for yourself. 

“…a gang of grim, sadomasochistic motorcyclists with a lust for human flesh…”

Set to a menacing death-metal score by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson, accompanied by a piercing symphony of Red’s screams, the absolutely bonkers Mandy is a rip-roaring ride, to say the least. Added to the film’s gonzo violence, which is jaw-droppingly gratuitous at points but generally entertaining, it makes for an outlandish audio-visual experience.  

Whatever anyone may think of Cage’s general acting prowess or his zealous performance as Red, it’s reasonable to argue that he’s nothing short of over-the-top. Yet, with impartiality in mind, it’s probably judicious to cite the possibility of his excess being deliberate. Whether that’s the case or not, his approach to acting is unquestionably a special brand all of its own. For his ability to amuse an audience, he must be applauded (said through clenched teeth).

Phew, it’s over. And it wasn’t as challenging as anticipated. It seems that Nicky Cage isn’t so bad – not all the time, anyway.

By Steven Allison

Freelance writer, editor and proofreader

Steven is a Scottish freelance writer and editor living in London. You'll often find him in a cozy corner of some coffee shop or other working on an article or his first novel. He also loves to learn French, sketching, and bake in his spare time.