Nicolas Cage delivers his most unhinged performance yet in Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy, and the results are highly pleasurable but drenched in artifice
A lumberjack seeks revenge for the slaughter of his wife in Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy, a lurid, psychosexual homage to 1980s horror that sees a wild-eyed Nicolas Cage give perhaps his most unhinged performance to date.
A triptych of murder and revenge, Cosmatos' follow-up to Beyond the Black Rainbow opens with Red (Cage) returning to the isolated cabin where he lives with Mandy (Riseborough). The intensity of their relationship is rendered in warm, vibrant colours, but the arrival of a religious cult sees the narrative descend into a hellish exploration of the occult and the devastation that hits when the foundations on which we rely on are burnt to ashes.
A work of pure artifice, Mandy brings to mind the films of Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci, existing entirely within its own hermetic world of giallo horror and 80s heavy metal. Although destined to perplex and divide audiences, Cosmatos’ latest is certain to achieve cult status among horror aficionados, even if the director’s eagerness to please results in a thoroughly masculine genre piece that contorts the misogyny of its forebears to the point that irony becomes difficult to separate from the genuine article.
Unless you’re willing to immerse yourself entirely into this erotically facetious world, Mandy can feel like the work of a filmmaker indulging in his own sexual and cinematic fetishes. But anyone open to films that fearlessly twist conventions, and mine the language of cinema for its strange potential, will get a kick out of Jóhann Jóhannsson’s disorienting soundscapes and Benjamin Loeb’s bewitching cinematography. A mind-melting genre orgy, Mandy is highly pleasurable both as a hyper-crafted aesthetic object and as a rare opportunity to witness Cage smelt his own battle axe and light a cigarette from the flaming head of a decapitated monster before engaging in a bloody chainsaw duel.
Released 12 Oct by Park Circus; Certificate 18
Scroll on for our investigation into the age-old question of whether Nicolas Cage actually a good actor, and to read our interview with Mandy director Panos Cosmatos.