The 2018 Panos Cosmatos film Mandy could very well have been released in 1978, directed by John Carpenter or Tobe Hooper, and, aside from Nic Cage’s Academy Award-winning visage, no one would be the wiser. Featuring a crazed cult, motorcycle-riding demons, over-saturated film stock, and, well, Nic Cage wielding a custom axe, Mandy is a slow burn on an apocalyptic scale.
Mandy has garnered devilish amounts of praise from horror/sci-fi/retro-revenge film fans, and deservedly so. The film delivers big time on the camp-crazy, the weirdo-bizarre, and the trippy-unexplained. Unfortunately, the film is frustratingly slow with heavy exposition, long walks, and dreamy dialogue. When the big payoff finally arrives – and c’mon, a chainsaw fight! – relief is felt, not satisfaction.
Cage plays Red, a lumberjack looking for payback after Linus Roache’s New Age cult has his woman, the eponymous Mandy, killed for laughing at his fantasies. Roache’s Jeremiah summons forth demonic bikers (as I think demonic bikers were easily summoned in a pre-Reddit 1983, but you know, just go with it) to stop a vengeful Red, who focuses his wrath into forging a Conan-worthy axe, a talent most lumberjack’s probably tend to hide from their public. Demons and humans alike fall in spectacularly-dismembered messes. The blood does boil, but it simmers for an eternity.
Cosmatos, to his credit, strives to elevate this VHS-worthy, goofy slasher throwback with art house cinema faire. The mustache-twirling baddie twirls with a cause. Cage, likewise, is able to ham it up enough to bring back those fond memories of Leaving Las Vegas and Raising Arizona. In the end, Mandy is more like Eaten Alive, less like Stranger Things.