Psychedelia, Gore, and Tiger Sweaters: A Review of Mandy

Just in time for the horror-movie season, Mandy is a successful patchwork of genres, including psychedelic horror, paperback fantasy novels, and 1980’s practical effects and gore. It’s like if Quentin Tarantino, Dario Argento, and Sam Raimi dropped acid and then wrote a chapter in The Book of Revelation.

The plot is simple. Set in a rural, 80’s forest community, a couple still very much in love are terrorized by a bizarre religious cult. Here, the plot is a vehicle to show off trippy, colorful visuals punctuated by moments of blood and gore that would make a black metal song blush. The dialogue is peppered with dark, absurdist humor. And the film is littered with clothes, music, and props that are touchstones for 1980’s horror and fantasy movies. You might be tempted to call it the midnight-movie version of Ready Player One.

The shameless–yet artful–display of allusion and homage are what bring Tarantino to mind, although the aesthetics and references skew more to the Duffer Brothers, of Stranger Things fame. You can tell that the Italian-Canadian director, Panos Cosmatos, deeply adores the references he’s pulling. But he never leans on one too heavily, instead choosing to successfully synthesize them all to create his own distinct vision.

Oh yeah, did I mention that Nick Cage is in it too. Like last year’s Mom and Dad, another indie horror film, Cage fully embraces his trademark ability to go completely bananas on screen. But he really takes it up a notch in Mandy. Let me just say this: Nick Cage, in a woven tiger sweater and tighty whities, screaming at the top of his lungs in a bathroom. That description alone should give you a sense on whether or not you’d enjoy this bizarro movie.

Some people will surely hate this film. They won’t like how liberally it pulls from its influence. They might also say it’s a bit long and overindulgent. But I don’t think this movie cares about those people. It already knows there are plenty of weirdos and suckers, like me, that will be all in.

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