How did I compile this list? There’s no real method to my special brand of madness. I simply looked through films released between October 1st, 2017 and September 30, 2018 and worked and reworked the list until I had 31. This countdown is not for the elitists or festival goers, so if the film hasn’t been released to the masses, it won’t be on the list. Also, anything released in October will most likely be on next year’s list—so sorry, no films like HALLOWEEN or SUSPIRIA just yet. I hope you’ll join me daily and don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web. I’ll also provide a second film suggestion in a separate post that is worth noting this year or missed being on the list by a skosh for those who can’t get enough horror.
So, let’s get to it! Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, and most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
Why is MANDY #1? Nic Cage showing up in not one but two of the horror films on this list? Damn right. The man who could eat a peach for a week gives one of his best performances in years with MANDY, a trippy revenge film that could only come from the psychedelic mind of Panos Cosmatos. Panos’ first film blew my mind, but add Nic Cage, Linus Roche, and a chainsaw that would make Leatherface blush and you have the absolute best horror film of the year. Top tier acting, effects that’ll make you cringe, a pitch-black story, and a heaping helping of what I am calling trippy Cosmatos-icity all add up to THE movie horror fans must see this year. You can find MANDY on DVD/BluRay from Image Entertainment, here on iTunes and Amazon!
Directed by Panos Cosmatos
Written by Panos Cosmatos, Aaron Stewart-Ahn (story/screenplay), Chris ‘Casper’ Kelly (Cheddar Goblin ad)
Starring Nic Cage, Linus Roche, Andrea Riseborough, Ned Dennehy, Olwen Fouéré, Richard Brake, Bill Duke, Line Pillet, Clément Baronnet, Alexis Julemont, Stephan Fraser, Ivailo Dimitrov, Hayley Saywell, Kalin Kerin, Tamás Hagyuó, Corfu, Madd’yz Dog Lollyta, & Paul Painter as the voice of the Cheddar Goblin!
A few years ago, I stumbled upon BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. A retro-sci fi achievement reminiscent of Kubrick, Cronenberg, Ridley Scott, and DePalma, but still wholly unique on its own. I eagerly awaited Panos Cosmatos’ next film. And I waited. And I waited. And I waited.
Well, the wait is over and not only is MANDY a transcendental visual achievement in film, but it is also a pulse-thumper of a suspense thriller with depths I know I’ll have to revisit numerous times to fully understand. MANDY isn’t a typical horror film, but it is filled with messy carnage, terrifying sequences, and uncomfortable scenes from start to finish.
The story of MANDY is simple. At its core, it’s a revenge story where the lead, Red Miller (Nic Cage) goes on an arduous and gory rampage after the death of the love of his life, Mandy (played by Andrea Riseborough), against failed musician and cult leader Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roche), his followers, and a leather-clad biker gang that might as well be the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
The linear and simplistic plot leaves room for Cosmatos to fill every scene with visual and audible treats and terrors. From the engaging title cards segmenting this film into chapters, to the dreamy way people fade into and out of other people, Cosmatos makes every inch of this film count. Save for one scene shot in natural light which shines a spotlight on Nic Cage to give a stunning reaction to the reality of the situational hell he has fallen into, MANDY is a red, blue, and neon lit nightmare. This film feels as if it is filmed on another planet, but a creative mind unlike any other in movies today.
The design of the monsters in this film who Jeremiah unleashes on Red are truly nightmarish. Never fully lit, we only see these bike riding creatures in silhouette because they wear all black, but even then we can see they are covered in all kinds of spikes, buckles, and other Cenobite-like gear. While they are derivative of Clive Barker creations, they look much more horrific because they are never fully detailed and are defined instead by their unholy actions. These guys are true berserkers that Cage takes on in bloody combat.
Cage is a powerhouse here, evoking his early years when he tried hard and delivered unique performances. He displays a barrage of emotions here; from content and sentimentality to utter rage and screams from a bottomless pit of despair. In the above-mentioned scene, when Cage breaks down, Cosmatos allows Cage to simply react to the situation he is in and it is a marvelously honest scene. It should be ridiculous, as Cage is wearing underwear, a Tiger shirt, and chugs an entire bottle of Vodka, but instead it feels all too real. This is a transformative scene as Red is a completely different person after this heartbreaking meltdown.
Linus Roche is a fascinating foe here. Propelled by a desire to be loved, noticed, and adored, Roche’s Jeremiah is a force of nature never relenting in using his followers to make the world work in his own selfish way. He is not an all powerful foe, but an all too shallow one whose façade can easily be torn away. Roche plays a foe who is shallow and ineffective, someone who never achieved his dreams and, like a spoiled child, can’t accept that—so he lashes out at anything that he desires or threatens him. It’s a nuanced performance and a villain with depth that you just don’t see that often.
Plus there’s a Cheddar Demon!!! Yes, Cosmatos lightens the load a bit with a bizarre, but memorable monster that vomits mac and cheese on kids! Yeah, you read that right! As I said, MANDY is overflowing with thematic weight and visual eye candy. It is a film best watched a few times—once to soak all the sights in and then do relish in the rich thematics at work. This is a dark revenge tale that is truly unforgettable. Rich performances, scenes you can’t unsee, Nic Cage at his best, giant chainsaw battles, transcendental music, and of course, that Cheddar Demon make MANDY the single best horror film of the year!
THE BEST OF THE BEST IN HORROR 2018!
#31 – Sam Patton’s DESOLATION
#30 – CULT OF CHUCKY
#29 – 1922
#28 – PSYCHOPATHS
#27 – GHOST STORIES
#26 – PYEWACKET
#25 – DOWNRANGE
#24 – MAYHEM
#23 – COLD SKIN
#22 – THELMA
#21 – THE BABYSITTER
#20 – TONIGHT SHE COMES
#19 – THE NIGHT EATS THE WORLD
#18 – THE RITUAL
#17 – FAKE BLOOD
#16 – BETTER WATCH OUT
#15 – MARROWBONE
#14 – MOM AND DAD
#13 – THE ENDLESS
#12 – BLACK HOLLOW CAGE
#11 – FOUND FOOTAGE 3D
#10 – LET HER OUT
#9 – MON MON MON MONSTERS
#8 – ANNIHILATION
#7 – HEREDITARY
#6 – CREEP 2
#5 – INCIDENT IN A GHOSTLAND
#4 – REVENGE
#3 – HOLD THE DARK
#2 – A QUIET PLACE
#1 – MANDY
M. L. Miller is an original AICN @$$Hole formerly known as Ambush Bug/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow Mark on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.
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Don’t forget to share and like and finally, Happy Horror Holiday Month to Everyone!