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Nicolas Cage meets grindhouse horror in the unsettling but creative ‘Mandy’

Attempting to save his girlfriend's life in a cult attack does not pay off for Red (Nicolas Cage) in "Mandy." | RLJE FILMS

From its beginning, “Mandy” is an unsettling, acquired taste. It’s not afraid to let the camera linger on gore or draw out dialogue in creepy tones with ice-cold stares. And that’s where this movie wins.

Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) lives in a secluded forest with his girlfriend, Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough), who always has a fantasy novel on hand. During a walk, Mandy attracts the attention of Children of the New Dawn cult leader Jeremiah (Linus Roache), who demands his followers take her captive. So they do what any cult would and summon biker demons to kidnap her and tie down the boyfriend with barbed wire.

When things don’t go how Jeremiah wants, Mandy is punished in a brutal way involving fire and a blanket while Red helplessly watches her perish.

Cage is known for his erratic, unhinged roles. They picked the perfect actor to portray a once-peaceful lumberjack who grieves over his girlfriend’s death and sets out on a bloody, revenge-filled quest.

Nobody but Cage could’ve pulled off screaming and crying with alcohol in the bathroom or slaughtering cult leaders with a blood-covered face and crazed look in his eyes.

Obviously, gore is a factor in this movie from director Panos Cosmatos (“Beyond the Black Rainbow”). The grindhouse horror oozes the ’80s aesthetic down to its “Ash vs. Evil Dead” vibe and colorful, trippy cinematography. And the deaths are as creative as they are satisfying.

There’s also creativity when Red is unconscious. Nightmares about his girlfriend are animated similarly to the characters in a Gorillaz music video with more unnerving traits.

At times, the movie can be slightly confusing unless the point is for the viewer to make up their own origins.

How does Red know how to weld an ax-sword hybrid weapon? Who knows. Why was there a tiger in the middle of a confrontation with a chemist? Great question. Demons exist and ride motor bikes? Apparently so.

But behind the gore, there are also deeper meanings embedded into the fire, the Technicolor LSD-like shots and the dreams that you’ll have to see for yourself.


RLJE Films presents a film directed by Panos Cosmatos and written by Cosmatos and Aaron Stewart-Ahn. No MPAA rating. Running time: 121 minutes. Now showing at the Music Box Theatre and on demand.