Red Miller is a simple man who works with his hands, a logger who spends his days in the forest and his nights with his girlfriend, Mandy, an artist who wears Mötley Crüe t-shirts and reads sword and sorcery novels, the life they share together in their house in the trees in the Shadow Mountains uncomplicated but loving.
Into their world come the Children of the New Dawn, fully paid up members of the crazy cult led by the musician Jeremiah Sand; he sees Mandy and wants him for his own, dispatching his disciples to track down Mandy and obtain her with the help of the Black Skulls.
Their home attacked by the demonic biker gang who ride through the night in armoured black leather, Mandy tortured and killed before him, Red forges weapons to seek his revenge against the Children of the New Dawn and their leader, a quest which will lead him into unknown dimensions of madness and beyond.
The second feature from director Panos Cosmatos, co-written with Aaron Stewart-Ahn, Mandy is not a film of half-measures in terms of visual style, violence or performance, Red giving Nicolas Cage the role to which all his previous outsiders, oddballs and onscreen outbursts were merely the gentle purring of an idling chainsaw before the real work began.
Straddling the thin line between madness and genius, Chronicles of Riddick‘s Linus Roache is Jeremiah Sand, the unblinking self-appointed misfit messiah obsessed with Mandy, Oblivion‘s Andrea Riseborough refusing to play the part of the helpless victim, her failure to offer Jeremiah the demanded devotion sealing her fate, an example to be made to the faithful.
Everything exaggerated to the extreme, Cosmatos paints a hyper-real world of passion and pain, a dreamy fantasy landscape of hazy smoke and engulfing golden firelight, of rainbow dawns and nebula skies, the whole lifted by doom-laden score by Arrival‘s Jóhann Jóhannsson to whom the film is dedicated, the Icelandic composer having died a month after Mandy‘s premiere at Sundance.
Bizarre and trippy, structured like a flashback to the low-budget art horror of a generation back or more, Red’s vengeful forest warrior is a creature of frustrated rage and grief fuelled by drugs and vodka, one scene providing an outrageous counterpart to A Ghost Story‘s notorious pie-eating indulgence.
Like a heavy metal video erupting to mesmerising nightmarish afterlife, Mandy will intimidate some and be imitated by others, but it is a unique vision which is both aware of its roots and one of the most original and uncompromising films of the year for those who can take the pace.