I’m not quite sure how to start this review, aside from saying that this film definitely isn’t for everyone. If you find Nicolas Cage’s hamminess aggravating or can’t stomach extreme gore, don’t let the high rating given in the title convince you that this movie will change your mind on either topic. Nick Cage is still batshit, and the violent situations he is placed in only exacerbate this. If, however, you enjoy these things, then read on.
At its core, Mandy is a revenge story, with Cage hell-bent on destroying the Cult of Jeremiah for killing his partner, the titular woman. Usually I’d take greater issue with this – I didn’t exactly love the intro to Deadpool 2 – but here the misogynistic trope of women in refrigerators is avoided through a thorough exploration of megalomanic masculinity and the women who pay the price. They aren’t brutalised to nearly the extent that the men are, so the torture porn aspect feels a little less exploitative, and Mandy’s demise feels less like an inspiration for Cage and more like the act that breaks him.
This is all assisted by a droning, Lynchian score that sets you on edge for the first half prior to Mandy’s death, and thrusts you through the remainder as Cage goes on his killing spree. Not to mention the vibrant cinematography and lighting, that manages to visually unsettle in ways that gore alone never could. The film starts with calm yet eerie tones and finishes in a wash of crimson to match the protagonist’s name, not ending in a place of closure, but instead one of torment and pure insanity. His masculine rage at the destruction of his love may be successful to a degree, but it causes far more harm than it ultimately prevents.
This brings me to the other standout performance of Mandy, in the form of Linus Roache as Jeremiah, the solipsistic villain who believes himself sincerely to be a God. Of course, this leads him to despicably violent and possessive behaviour, as he feels entitled not just to anything he desires, but anyone he desires. I avoid trying to make political associations with too many films in my reviews, but here the pussy-grabbing similarity seems too noticeable to ignore. It is only when Mandy scoffs at his pretentious advances that he responds with aggression, baffled that anyone would turn him down. The other two women in his cult, a younger and older woman, love him so unconditionally that you wonder as an audience member whether they have known anything else. Abuse is a theme in this film throughout, and without spoiling too much, it places much of the blame on psychopathic patriarchs.
I’ve seen this described often as a drama or a thriller, but if you want to see a truly refreshing and technically intriguing slasher film, then don’t miss Mandy.