For a movie not ironically named HEAVY METAL, MANDY is the most heavy metal movie around. The progressive rock sounds of King Crimson cooing over the opening sequences is just one of the many signs that the movie is ready to throw up some serious metal horns. The film’s metal cred doesn’t come to full fruition until Nicolas Cage is covered in other people’s blood; wielding a steel battle axe he forged himself after the brutal murder of his wife. This is the kind of revenge film that could inspire metal bands for generations.
Cage plays Red, a logger in rural California in 1983. After a hard day’s work, the recovering alcoholic goes to his remote cabin near a lake, and lies down with his free spirited muse, Mandy (Riseborough). Mandy has her own personal demons from her childhood that she quells through book reading and crafting fantasy art pieces. The two’s quiet life is soon interrupted by a Charles Manson-esque cult led by Jeremiah (Roache), that uses psychedelic drugs to keep his minions in line. He’s smitten by Mandy’s beauty during a passing glance on the highway and recruits a masochist biker gang straight out of HELLRAISER to kidnap her.
The movie begins like a dreamy Queensryche song, playing against the backdrop of a Dream Theater album cover. Ominous synthesizers and guitar chords, like King X, start to gradually shift towards a Manowar battlecry set against a Darkthrone hellscape. If none of these metal allegories are clicking for you, let me switch it up. MANDY starts off like the cover of any book in your bookstore’s fantasy/sci-fi section before become a surreal nightmare that’s a visual fusion between MAD MAX and Cronenberg wet dreams. The film opens like a stellar marijuana high before it comes crashing down like a bad acid trip.
Simply put MANDY oozes 80s. For those who thrived in that generation, MANDY might conjure memories of CONAN THE BARBARIAN comics, the BEASTMASTER film, cheesy hair metal or early Terry Brooks’ novels. Even for younger cinephiles who don’t quite understand those references, or older ones who simply aren’t nostalgic for those times, there’s a lot to appreciate and enjoy in MANDY. The film features homages and nods towards horror films like FRIDAY THE 13TH and ERASERHEAD while still being uniquely bizarre. It’s an eye popping ride, telling most of its story through pregnant silences, subdued facial expressions, grandiose speeches and gritty, graphic visuals.
Underneath its rich splashes of neon and crimson, there are rich shades of absurdist philosophy, religious satire and aggressive patriarchy. It’s one of those films where you can dig into specific scenes and characters, finding a variety of different meanings. After thinking about, I’d really only like to mention one thing that folks will be picking apart after watching the movie. It’s a seemingly odd throwaway scene featuring a commercial for the macaroni and cheese brand, Cheddar Goblin. The 30-second appearance, in the midst a two-hour film, of the Cheddar Goblin, feels oddly profound and heartbreaking. It’s the kind of brief moments a movie nerd could spend several minutes dissecting.
I’m sure there are elements I neglected to comment on or mention, like how this movie does a masterful job visually reflecting the effects of LSD and it’s commentary on the callousness that can come from man’s search for meaning. This is the kind of movie though, that I would not recommend to people who need a logical conclusion or have an affliction to horror. While the movie itself isn’t scary, it uses elements of the genre to make Nicolas Cage go from 0-60 in a split second on the rage scale. MANDY is an insane descent into Hell and you’ll find you’re glued to the screen or hating every second of it.
Video: (1080p HD Widescreen 2:40:1) The presentation is crisp and vivid. The Blu-ray really brings out the film’s rich colors.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The audio is on par with the video.
Behind the Scenes (22:03): A typical peek behind the curtain that you would expect in an EPK.
Deleted and Extended Scene (13:58): Nothing here really pops out as necessary for the story.