I could have written about the 2018 “psychedelic drama action horror” film, Mandy, as a Guilty Pleasure, given its almost non-existent box office. But “pleasure” is not a word I would use after watching it, though I did find it fascinating in an oddly disturbing sort of way. And critics loved it, as indicated by its 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, especially the compelling performance of its star, Nicolas Cage.
(ANOTHER) CABIN IN THE WOODS
Here is an abstract for the first one-third of the film, as there are just too many spoilers subsequent to that. It is 1983; Red Miller (Cage) and his girlfriend, Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough) share a cozy, isolated mountain cabin. Red is a logger, Mandy a clerk at a general store/gas station. She is also an artist who creates compelling, often disturbing, fantasy art. They love each other fiercely, and from their conversations it seems that they both brought a lot of past baggage into the relationship.
Enter the sicko hippie cult, Children of the New Dawn, led by the crazier-than-a-shithouse-rat, psycho-motherfucker Jeremiah Sand (the über-creepy Linus Roache). On her walk to work one morning, Mandy passes the cult’s caravan. Sand, staring at her from a window, decides that he has to have her, and he assigns one of his nutcases, Brother Swan, to initiate the task.
THE BLACK SKULLS
That night, the caravan surrounds Red and Mandy’s cabin. Brother Swan blows on a weird horn, and a demonic biker gang called the Black Skulls soon appears. These “monsters” used to be human drug runners, but a bad batch of LSD turned them into the cannibalistic creatures that they now are. The Children of the New Dawn pays for their services with copious amounts of LSD, as well as one of the unimportant cult members upon whom they can snack. (Does all of this sound disturbing enough?)
After completing the deal, the Black Skulls break into the cabin and subdue Mandy and Red. Sand has Red bound with barbed wire and tortured outside the cabin, while the cult’s two female members, Mother Marlene and Sister Lucy, drug Mandy with LSD. They also have her stung by a venomous wasp.
Soon tripping, Mandy can barely focus on psycho Sand as he tries to seduce her with some psychedelic folk music that he once recorded. He also says that God has told him that he can take anything he wants. Mandy laughs her ass off, which pisses him off no end. He has her tied up in a sack, dumped outside in front of Red, and set ablaze. The cult and the Black Skulls then leave, and Red can only watch in horror as Mandy is reduced to ashes.
Eventually Red manages to break free and, ignoring his own wounds, he mourns the woman he loves. Here, Nicolas Cage is at his best as he cries out his rage and pain. This is real, not the forced, almost comedic outburst he is known for (not fondly) at the end of The Wicker Man. (See my post, “Oh No, Not The Bees!”) This scene, among others, is what so impressed the critics, one even referring to Cage’s “greatness.”
So, it is revenge time. This is where I’ll leave you as the totally focused Red Miller, with a crossbow called the Reaper, some nasty arrows, and an even nastier battle axe that he forges himself, sets off after the Children of the New Dawn and the Black Skulls, not necessarily in that order. Clearly, Mandy is not for everyone, but Nicolas Cage’s performance makes it worth checking out.