In Panos Cosmatos’ 2010 Sci-Fi horror Beyond the Black Rainbow, the year 1983 symbolically loomed large as the setting for that film and its stylistic inspiration. For Panos (whose father George P. Cosmatos directed Cobra, Rambo: First Blood Part II & Tombstone) it is the year he was first exposed to the cluttered shelves of his local VHS rental store and the delights that lay within.
Panos’ Swedish mother, Birgitta Ljungberg-Cosmatos, was a sculptor and visual artist and, by his own admission, he’s heavily influenced by his parent’s artistic leanings, with his own cinematic style vacillating between the surreal arthouse and popcorn-fueled crowd-pleaser.
The film opens in an unnamed forest near the ‘Shadow Mountains’; it is 1983. Forestry worker Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) lives on the edge of the woods in a womb-like golden homestead with his lover Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough). One day, through pure happenstance, a roaming LSD cult catches sight of Mandy near her home and they target her for abduction. The cult leader, Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache) orders his Manson-family-esque minions to summon a group of disfigured, demonic homicidal bikers to aid them in their kidnapping and, ultimately, the motley Satanic group descend on Mandy and Red’s mountain-top home to enact their nefarious desires, leaving Red broken, traumatised and hell-bent on exacting a righteous, blood-lust fueled vengeance.
In Mandy Cosmatos draws on a similar visual palette to Beyond the Black Rainbow: drenched in ‘80s neon gloss, deep-focus anamorphic lensing with late, great composer Jóhann Jóhannsson (Sicario, Arrival) delivering a final stunning, sonic swansong of diegetic guitar riffs and epic dread-laden soundscapes.
Feeling like that awesome cosmic-horror VHS that you’ve just stumbled across on one of the lower shelves in the horror section, Mandy is akin to legendary fantasy artist Frank Frazetta drinking a litre of LSD, watching The Evil Dead and Hellraiser while listening to Obscured by Clouds by Pink Floyd, then painting an epic cosmic triptych. Finally, they’ve constructed a film that not only can contain Nicolas Cage (as Werner Herzog termed it … “unleashing the hog”) but also work as a curious fusion of modern-day horror tropes, the operatic tone of Wagner’s Ring cycle and epically primal and elemental cosmic dread. It’s a doozy.