It's heartening to see someone living their dream. With his second feature, Panos Cosmatos, the VHS-mad director of the hypnotic horror lulu Beyond the Black Rainbow, has scored the ultimate video-addict coup. He has convinced Nicolas Cage to star in his horror flick. And, like any true fan of grisly midnight movies, Cosmatos has developed, over his life, a whole bucket list of ridiculous feats he hoped he'd live long enough to see Cage perform onscreen. Chainsaw fighting? Telling a knock-knock joke? Sticking his face right into a geyser of gore that simply gushes, on and on, like a busted fire hydrant? Cosmatos gives us all that and so much more. His Mandy is an entrancing slaughterhouse of a revenge flick that grooves along on the baddest of bad vibes. It achieves the ecstatic through arterial spray, through faces melting and flesh ripped by barbed wire, through the way Cage's eyes, at times, go wide and round as lotto balls. It's Cosmatos who has won the lottery, though — and you, too, if all this Cage is your cup of crazy.
It's not fully mine, to be honest, and thrilled as I often was by it, I at times found Mandy's grisly beauty depleting, to see such exquisite technical command applied to the same old gotta-kill-'em-all storytelling. Cage's character is out for blood — and blood and blood and blood and blood -- for the same cheap-ass reason most movie heroes are out for blood: They killed his woman. Andrea Riseborough's Mandy Bloom, in a break with thriller tradition, at least gets scenes where she has more to do than just give the hero his reasons for heroism.