I immediately warn you: this film can confuse many. Too sensitive spectators – with an abundance of bloody scenes. Fans of art-house aesthetics – with the scrupulous abidance of all horror film canon. Admirers of horror film – with excessive aestheticism, weird moment in the storyline, which turn the carnival of violence into something different.
Nonetheless, cinema critics of the Metacritic rated this picture 82/100 and there’s 94% of positive responses (122/130) on the omnipresent “Rotten Tomatoes“. The audience in the serious and sceptical Cannes met the picture with a round of five-minute applause.
Let’s start from the very beginning.
Woodcutter Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) and his lover and artist Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough) lived a quiet life in the northwest of the United States in the summer of 1983. Their house is located in the quiet forest on the riverbank. And nobody’s around. Almost nobody. Once, their idyll is ruined by new neighbors – a sect of mad fanatics. The leader of this cult called Jeremiah (Linus Roache) caught a sight of Mandy. Obeying the order, the monsters on the motorbikes, real angels of hell, kidnap the girl to make her a new concubine of the lustful Messiah. Mandy resists and she’s burnt in front of Red, who is left alive for some reason. Then he, wounded and blood-spattered breaks free and starts his revenge.
Panos Cosmatos, who is known for his only work “Beyond the Black Rainbow” (2010), became the director of the project. Panos is the son of George P. Cosmatos, who is famous for resounding films like “Rambo-2” (1985) and “Cobra” (1986). By the way, in one of the episodes in “Mandy” the crossbow – Rambo’s famous weapon, appears. Unlike the childish blockbusters of Cosmatos-senior, it’s not just about the plot in “Mandy”.
Actually, the beginning of the film is unexpectedly minor, while flying over an everlasting wood under Starless – melancholic song of King Crimson, British art-rock classics. As it’s mentioned above, an expected bloody attraction will be shown. But the atmosphere is more important here. The sky is important, covered with bizarre red clouds. The contrast of light and shadow is important, hallucinogenic frame saturation, created by operator Benjamin Loeb. The mad look of demons-motorcyclists. And also a brilliant transformation of Linus Roache into a selfish and miserable Jeremiah. Cage’s work is even more brilliant: Miller’s role was rightfully called by all critics his best one for many years; this character is simultaneously sensitive, scary, touching and funny – Cage manages to mold all these traits in one pot. Music by Jóhann Jóhannsson – deceptively light electronic passages that add to the general weirdness.
Practically, in all components, it’s a masterful and artificial work. Miller takes revenge for Mandy, never repeating in the means and methods. This, partially ironical parade of horror movie stamps, creates augmented, much more interesting reality. Basically, we watch a stranger’s dream about a horror film, the dream in which there’s no exit for everyone, including the protagonist. So, it’s unknown whether a poor woodcutter imagined it or it was for real. We, together become the accomplices of an amazing and cruel history, yet getting our share of justice triumph.
Therefore, even knowing what will be in the end, you may want to watch this film once more. Because peeping inside others’ dreams is deadly exciting.
Dmytro Desyateryk, The Day – specially for opinionua.com