M.L. Miller here! As I go into my tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Eight of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2017 and going through September 30, 2018. I have posted Best of lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t! Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. 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, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
Released on September 14, 2018. Available on Blu-ray/DVD, On Demand, and digital download! Also streaming on SHUDDER!
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 2017-2018 COUNTDOWN!
#1 – MANDY
#2 – A QUIET PLACE
#3 – REVENGE
#4 – HEREDITARY
#5 – HOLD THE DARK
#6 – INCIDENT IN A GHOSTLAND
#7 – GET MY GUN
#8 – CREEP 2
#9 – GHOST STORIES
#10 – ANNIHILATION
#11 – FAKE BLOOD
#12 – MON MON MON MONSTERS
#13 – THE ENDLESS
#14 – THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER
#15 – LET HER OUT
#16 – FOUND FOOTAGE 3D
#17 – DOWNRANGE
#18 – BLACK HOLLOW CAGE
#19 – HAPPY DEATH DAY
#20 – MOM & DAD
#21 – THE LANDING
#22 – TONIGHT SHE COMES
#23 – THE RITUAL
#24 – THE BABYSITTER
#25 – MARROWBONE
#26 – BETTER WATCH OUT
#27 – THE NIGHT EATS THE WORLD
#28 – BE MY CAT: A FILM FOR ANNE
#29 – PYEWACKET
#30 – TERRIFIER
#31 – MAYHEM
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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