Movie of the Week 75
Mandy 2018 action, horror
In the opening scenes we, the audience, are introduced to a nice, normal couple – Red Miller and Mandy Bloom. The two live happily together in a modest cabin on a forested acreage. It is set in the American northwest – in lumber country. Red is a lumberjack and Mandy is a writer. They both are pretty laid back and calm. It is rare for a horror film to spend about 20 – 30 minutes of its run time that consists of an extended prologue exploring Red and Mandy’s relationship before the latter's death. We know it is a set-up and a journey to hell waits in the wings. The film's score creates a sense of moody foreboding. Throughout the film's first half, the music is mostly relaxing in tone, later a synthesizer line pulses stronger and stronger, spiking and jarring when we are introduced to the presence of evil – an unmarked panel van traveling down a gravel back road. At this point the movie changes gears and the trouble starts. The passengers of the van are the Children of the New Dawn, a band of religious fanatics with a “charismatic” Charles Manson type leader. The cult is also deep into psycho-active drugs of astonishing potency.
In a 2018 UK Guardian interview, Nicolas Cage described his performance's inspiration for Red Miller: only just before shooting on the film started, his 14 year marriage to Alice Kim Cage came to 'a sudden end', which was "A shocker for me... I didn't see it coming, and those feelings had to go somewhere, so they went into my performance." So Cage hired a personal “screaming coach” named David Sellers (uncredited) to capture the right vibe. There's a scene in the movie during the violent death of his lover, Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough), at the hands of Children of the New Dawn. Red Miller is bloodied and chained up. Cage has a look on his face of utter amazement and dread and horror as the camera hangs back at first them closes in tighter and tighter as Red begins screaming and screaming; we are witness to a real life, on-screen total catharsis.
Of course, the cult leader spares Red, or else there is no movie. Red goes on the warpath and we have a straightforward revenge plot told in a series of roughly connected, often trippy, images or hallucinations. Many of the scenes are washed out with a red tint when they aren't streaked in bright, blinking greens and whites that unfold in a sort of a waking nightmare fashion. The logic (if that’s the correct word) is sketchy, impressionistic and steeped in mysticism that makes trying to "solve" it feel like missing the point. Red’s weapons of choice are a crossbow and a hand-made battle axe that seem to have mystical powers of their own. Throughout the narrative thread of Red’s bloody revenge quest, the director/writer Panos Cosmatos, crafts one after another of his hypnotic scenes that work as pure filmmaking, while tapping an emotional core you feel rather than understand. This movie is not for everyone, but here at House Clark, Mandy is the WTF did I just see movie of 2018, and maybe for the entire 2010 decade.
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Written by Ben Clark. Copyright 2016-2023. All rights reserved.