With his first film, Beyond the Black Rainbow, Panos Cosmatos established himself as a quirky filmmaker with a blazing eye for visuals. However, while the film was undeniably hypnotic and dream-like at times, it also kind of dragged on as a result. Despite being good, it could easily be considered too artsy for its own good, at times sacrificing itself to its own pace. His followup, Mandy is simply superior.

Mandy retains the same beautiful, psychedelic imagery, but moves much more like a roller coaster than a tree slug. There’s also less doubt that it’s a horror movie, whereas Black Rainbow” seemed to invite such a debate. There are thematic similarities between the two films, but they can definitely stand apart from each other.

Mandy lends itself to the world of a crazed, rock ‘n roll cult leader (where does that sound familiar?) named Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache). His cult terrorizes a couple with the help of the Black Skulls, a demonoid biker gang (Ivailo Dimitrov, Kalin Kerin and Tamás Hagyuó). Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) seeks revenge for what they do to Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough), leaving no doubt of some ensuing craziness. Along this savage journey, Panos Cosmatos somehow works in some beautiful imagery that doesn’t distract from the story. In fact, it seems to be at one with the story, as Red Miller seems to be tripping pretty hard on his revenge quest.

Other Neat Stuff

Mandy is ridiculous, and there are some fairly obvious moments where Cosmatos seems to be saying, “It’s only a movie, folks!” The most obvious of those would be the Cheddar Goblin (Paul Painter) scene. It’s one of the few scenes that seems out of place, but in a glorious and uproarious fashion. It seems guaranteed that most people will laugh when this moment happens. The sheer zaniness of of is palpable! There’s even a little nod to Blue Velvet thrown into the mix, which is pretty cool.

I also enjoy the brief yet memorable appearance by Bill Duke as Caruthers, who sort of helps Red prepare for revenge. While Duke plays a minor part, he helps build a major impression of what Red’s in for. The film also stars Richard Brake as The Chemist, Ned Dennehy as Brother Swan and Olwen Fouéré as Mother Marlene, among others.

Are The Black Skulls Debatable?

Few people will likely zero in on Mandy for serious debate, which may be for the best. Still, there is one interesting question: Are The Black Skulls really demonic, or is it all part of some hallucination? Either possibility seems abundantly clear, as this whole film plays out like some whacked out, drugged up nightmare. At the same time, Cage’s character seems sober enough, and is sobering. There is more than a whiff of generalized fantasy throughout “Mandy, so practically everything’s readily up to interpretation.

What are your thoughts on Mandy? Would you be afraid if Nicolas Cage came after you? Let us know in the comments!

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Wade Wanio is an author.

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