Connect with us
Mandy 2018 film review
Image: RLJE Films


Mandy is a Half-serious, Half-Bonkers Phantasmagorical Meditation on Love and Revenge

The enchanted lives of a couple in a secluded forest are brutally shattered by a nightmarish hippie cult and their demon-biker henchmen, propelling a man into a spiraling, surreal rampage of vengeance.

Sundance 2018: Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy

The picture of domestic tranquility, Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) and her husband Red (Nicholas Cage) live together in a remote cabin in the woods. It’s 1983, and they enjoy a simple life — until a cult leader (Linus Roche) becomes infatuated with possessing Mandy. With the help of particularly heinous demons, the cult commits terrible acts of violence. Mandy is as much about the rebellious, luminous spirit of the title character as it is about Red’s quest for absolute, no-holds-barred retribution. It’s pure entertainment slightly curbed by deep affection and a not-so-subtle indictment of blind religious faith.

Panos Cosmatos’ first feature, Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010), was a gripping journey into a surreal universe of confinement and time travel. Mind-bending beautiful (albeit confusing), the visuals of Black Rainbow sear into your memory no matter what you think of the story. In Mandy, Cosmatos’ narrative is much more straightforward, but just as lengthy in ramping up to the action. With the slow rise to the main attraction, we are at least privy to a careful but captivating presentation of Andrea Riseborough’s Mandy, and the unsettling crew of cult members that are sent to obtain her allegiance with sacrifices and a dangerous hallucinatory drug. Riseborough (Oblivion, Battle of the Sexes) is wonderfully defiant of her captors, while Cage is kept silently at bay until he frees himself. Mandy herself is a visionary — the book she consumes and the drawings she does in her spare time seem to be a premonition of an uncontrollable future. She is at the center of a vicious attack but manages to not be a victim. Riseborough projects a serene sense of confidence even as her world falls apart.

This lack of Cage until a good way into the film may be frustrating, but once he’s unleashed, the atmosphere becomes charged with endless opportunities for him to chew the scenery and amp up the excitement of what insanity he has in store for us. Pairing Cosmatos and Cage puts an ideal — if sometimes over-exaggerated — face to the director’s imaginative mania. A frenzied yet purposeful drive to cut down those who have committed unfathomable pain unfurls with gory precision. Horror fans, regardless of whether they admire Cage’s loony dedication to the role, will appreciate the exacting details and excess involved with Red’s hunt for the ruthless cult.

Cage wavers between deadpan and outright campy madness. In one stand-alone scene, he confronts utter devastation in a bathroom — screaming, plodding, ludicrously over-the-top, and appearing oddly vulnerable onscreen as we are isolated with him for an extended amount of time. Cage may have the effect of repulsing those who aren’t on board with his brand of outlandish characterizations, but for any audience that shows up expecting him to truly embrace showy melodrama and foolish-yet-forceful quips, the spellbinding carnage of Mandy won’t disappoint in the least.

Mandy movie review
Image: RLJE Films

Cosmatos and Aaron Stewart-Ahn expertly craft a fantasy space that lies hidden in plain sight. Vivid colors and visual nuance come together with Cage’s lunatic performance to create a delightfully dark atmosphere where blood flows freely, and a theater of the grotesque plays out with a marvelous fury.

Watch Mandy

Now Streaming

Written By

Brian Marks is Sordid Cinema's Lead Film Critic. His writing has appeared in The Village Voice, LA Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, and Ampersand. He's a graduate of USC's master's program in Specialized Arts Journalism. You can find more of his writing at Best film experience: driving halfway across the the country for a screening of Jean-Luc Godard's "King Lear." Totally worth it.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



2001: A Space Odyssey 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: Clarke and Kubrick’s Odyssey of Discovery


Deep Impact was a serious look at the end of the world Deep Impact was a serious look at the end of the world

25 Years Later: Deep Impact was a Serious Look at the End of the World 


Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 movie review Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 movie review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 Caps Off the Trilogy With a Heartfelt Bang (Mostly)


The Best Movies of 1973 The Best Movies of 1973

The Golden Year of Movies: 1973


The Zone of Interest The Zone of Interest

Cannes 2023: Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest is a Manicured Vision of Hell


Jeanne Du Barry review Jeanne Du Barry review

Cannes 2023: Maïwenn’s Great Hair Goes to Great Lengths in Jeanne Du Barry


Black Flies Gripping Black Flies Gripping

Cannes 2023: Black Flies— Gripping Descent into the Underbelly of New York’s Urban Misery 


Asteroid City: A Gimmicky Vanity Project Asteroid City: A Gimmicky Vanity Project

Cannes 2023: Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City is a Gimmicky Vanity Project


La Passion de Dodin Bouffant: La Passion de Dodin Bouffant:

La Passion de Dodin Bouffant: Surfeit Cooking Drama Most Inane Film at Cannes


BlackBerry movie review BlackBerry movie review

BlackBerry Is a Wonderfully Canadian Account of a Dying Tech Dream


Godzilla 1998 Godzilla 1998

Godzilla at 25: When Hollywood Made a Manhattan Monster Movie, with Disastrous Results


The Mother Jennifer Lopez and Lucy Paez The Mother Jennifer Lopez and Lucy Paez

Jennifer Lopez’s The Mother is Eerily Similar to Enough, But That’s Not a Bad Thing


Discovery channel Discovery channel

The Head-Scratching Moves Discovery Has Been Making


10 Best SummerSlam Matches 10 Best SummerSlam Matches

10 Best SummerSlam Matches


Sean Connery Sean Connery

60 Years Later, Dr. No Remains the Paragon of Bond


The Matrix Reloaded The Matrix Reloaded

20 Years Later: The Matrix Reloaded was Underwhelming, but Still Underrated