7/10

A mesmerising experience and one of the best movies for 2018 so far. Nicolas Cage makes a fine return with an action-horror film that’s incredibly stylistic and thoroughly entertaining. But be warned, this is not a film for the faint of heart.

Mandy tells the story of Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) and his girlfriend Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough). Red works as a logger while Mandy is a cashier and paints abstract fantasy art in her spare time. The two live a reclusive life until one day on her way to work, Mandy attracts the attention of the deviant hippie cult ‘Children of the New Dawn’. From that point on the nightmare begins.

My favourite aspect of Mandy must be the style. The cinematography oozes a psychedelic 80’s feeling with most shots lit and colour graded as a crimson red or neon green. Think the Stranger Things opening titles and you’ll get a picture of what I mean. I can’t imagine the effort it took for these shots to be set up. All credit goes to cinematographer Benjamin Loeb and the post-production team who did a fantastic job.

Everything about this movie fits perfectly with the themes of fantasy because Mandy looks and feels like a fantasy. There are scenes where characters words are slurred purposely and images of them moving are repeated to help give a fantasy feel. Even the chapter title cards look like original works of fantasy art. I had a blast watching every scene simply because it looked so amazing.

Mandy’s story is also thoroughly entertaining. Not only did it feel like a breath of fresh air, it acted as a catalyst for bringing out the best in Nicolas Cage. For an actor whose career has included some famously overly eccentric performances, I was pleasantly grateful that Mandy’s fantasy narrative gave him the platform to do just that. Mandy knows how to use Cage’s eccentric charm because it often intentionally plays on the ridiculousness of things for entertaining effect. Compare to this his other films like The Wicker Man and Vampire’s Kiss which don’t do this and end up making Cage’s antic unintentionally hilarious.

I should also add that this film isn’t for everyone because there are horror elements that really do earn it an MA rating. But for those that enjoy action-horror films or even just Nicolas Cage’s often over the top style of acting, I have no doubt that you’ll love this film. Mandy works by pairing a crazy fantasy with an actor that can match that same level of craziness in performance. And for me the combination worked brilliantly.

My only real gripe is that certain parts of the film tend to drag on and end up being slightly repetitive. In my opinion some of these scenes could have been cut earlier and their point would have been just as clear. I can see how extending the length of these scenes may have been an intentional choice from writer/director Panos Cosmatos. By slowing down the pace in these scenes one can argue they slowly lure you into a hypnotic-like state which fits with the fantasy theme Mandy is clearly going for. Maybe a second watch might confirm that but right now I’m still of the mind that scenes could have been edited for a shorter length and the same effect could have been achieved.

Ultimately with a fantastic style and gripping narrative, Mandy succeeds as a great example of independent arthouse films done right. I loved this film and I’ll be checking out more from this director in the future. Watch this on the big screen if you can because the experience will only be heightened. See it.

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