mandy | panos cosmatos | aaron stewart-ahn | nicolas cage | andrea riseborough | linus roache | demon | cult | action | thriller | belgium | united states | ned dennehy | richard brake | bill duke | Olwen Fouéré | olwen fouere | line pillet | Clément Baronnet | demons
Director: Panos Cosmatos
Writer: Panos Cosmatos and Aaron Stewart-Ahn
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough and Linus Roache
After seeing the first trailer for this film, it had sparked my interest. I had heard an interview of the writer/director Panos Cosmatos on a podcast and was quite intrigued to see this film. The official synopsis for the film is set in the primal wilderness of 1983 where Red Miller (Nicolas Cage), a broken and haunted man hunts an unhinged religious sect who slaughtered the love of his life.
For this film, we start seeing that Red is a lumberjack in remote wilderness. They have to helicopter him in and out. He lives with Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough). Their house is in the middle of nowhere and they are perfect for each other. She wears rock band t-shirts and is into fantasy fiction. Their lives get turned upside down when Mandy passes a van. Inside of it is a religious cult led by Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache). He decides that he needs Mandy.
He tasks Brother Swan (Ned Dennehy) with getting her. They call upon these demon bikers, but they require a sacrifice. I want to say, I loved this image of these bikers. I had heard that they resemble cenobites from Hellraiser and that is a perfect way to describe them. The first image of them though is silhouetted and we just get small details of them. They knock out Red as well as take him hostage along with Mandy.
What I found interesting about this cult is that the words that Mandy reads matches to this group pretty well. They actually have The Chemist (Richard Brake) who makes acid for them. What is intriguing about this is that everyone in cult takes it. They probably are seeing images as this drug is known for making people hallucinate. Mandy is given some and it makes for an amazing visual and slows down time. Jeremiah is a charismatic leader, but much like other cult leaders, he is taking advantage of those that are weak or have low self-esteem. The use of the acid also helps. When Mandy laughs at him, he decides that she must die.
Red is witness to it and he is left for dead. No longer caring about himself, he gets free and seeks out Caruthers (Bill Duke). He is out for revenge for those that wronged in him a visually stunning and violent rampage.
Something that struck me, this film runs about two hours long, but it didn’t feel that way. It is really broken into two sections with cult taking the two being the mid-way point of the film. I personally thought that the first half was better than the second, as I thought the build-up to all of this was better. The second half is still really good and we get to see some crazy fight scenes. Not to mention the axe like weapon that Red creates. I also really liked how the film ended. It was fitting end for what we saw in the film.
The acting in this film was one of the best parts for sure. Cage is mocked many times for his overacting. He gives his normal performance, but it fit this film perfectly. He has such creepy expressions on his face and his outbursts look like those of a madman really going through grief. Riseborough was interesting to me for this film. She really doesn’t have a big part in the film, even though she is the catalyst for everything. Her subdued role I thought fit what was needed. Roache was great as the cult leader. He seems so strong and charismatic, but we see that it is a front even early on. I thought Dennehy, Brake and Duke were all good in support, even though none of them had big roles. The cast just rounded out everything very well in my opinion.
I can’t start talking about the effects of the film without talking about how the film looked. I did hear that the grainy look we get at times was done with a filter and being this film is set in 1983, I loved it. It took me back to films of the era. This film was shot beautifully and the use of color was amazing. It almost feels like Red is going to a whole new dimension to take care of all of this. Now the effects used in the film were also great. They seemed to be done mostly practical and I liked it. It looks so real. The look of the demon bikers was great too. They are kept to the shadows where we want more, but it also gives our mind a chance to present something scarier.
The score of the film was also something that was completely amazing. For a majority, it is heavy rock music. I did hear that the Cosmatos envisioned this as a rock opera, which definitely fits. The music moves between rock and this eerie sounding songs that help to drive tension. The selections definitely fit the scenes to ramp up the tension and the fear.
Now with that said, this film is great. My goal wasn’t to just completely praise this film, but there was so much good in it that I can’t help it. I thought the story isn’t the most complex, but the way it builds it feels like that. It is paced very well and the two hour run time doesn’t feel like it. We get a fitting end to everything that happens in the film. The acting, visuals, effects and score are all great. I held off rating this film until I could get down on paper exactly how I felt and I’m glad I did. My initial rating in my head was a little bit lower, but now that I have wrote this, I know this is a great film. I recommend giving this a viewing.
My Rating: 10 out of 10