Nicolas Cage is not a happy bunny. He is pretty sick of all the chat about how he has a tendency to go ‘full Cage’ at the drop of a hat. The man has spent the last few weeks refuting the ever-growing column inches devoted to what people regard as over acting in the extreme. What aggrieves him most is that it is a regarded as his default position in any role. He argues that every role is different and there is a great deal of preparation and craft involved and it is not just some conveyer belt of madness. His new film Mandy, which is showing at the Sitges Film Festival will only fuel the debate.
Cage plays the part of Red Miller, a man who has found some stability and peace in the world. He works as a lumberjack and lives pretty much off the grid with his girlfriend Mandy. She is a troubled soul who has had some trouble in her past if the scars on her face are anything to go by. Their peace is shattered when Mandy becomes the focus of the attention of the leader of a sinister cult. This leads to a sequence of events that spiral into death, destruction and bloody violence.
Cage is quite superb here. Even from the start when he is reserved there is an underlying feeling of menace and rage. This is kept at bay by the presence of Mandy and he is measured as long as he is around her. It is when the trouble starts that he strips off the mask and reveals just what is underneath. It isn’t pretty. There is a five minute sequence in the aftermath of an event that basically breaks him. It is powerful, dramatic and more than a little disturbing. It is as compelling and dramatic performance that you will see this year.
The film appears to be influenced by a number of sources. Dario Argento’s Gallo style is prominent throughout. There is dramatic use of colour especially bright red with the screen saturated at times of high tension or horror. The cinematography lens itself to the same influence with long slow shots which are faded in and out while the deep rumbling score emphasises the unsettling images on the screen. There are also nods to the work of David Lynch, Tobe Hooper and Evil Dead era Sam Raimi to name just a few. Half the fun is spotting just where they pop up.
There are all sorts of images and references here that cold form an article on its own. Some obvious ones like the use of chainsaws at the start (in his job) and their recurrence later in the drama emphasising that this was pre-ordained. Mandy hides herself away in fantasy novels which then form the basis of Red’s Disturbed sleep later on. His dreams are animated with Mandy as a high priestess role in a world of dragons and sorcery. There is even a tiger thrown into the mix at one point. What is actually means is a bit of a spoiler but it’s safe to say it is there for a reason as Cage is seen sporting a Tiger T-shirt during one of the more disturbing scenes.
This isn’t a film for the squeamish as there is more than enough gore and blood to satisfy the most jaded of horror fans. It is completely over the top but fits in nicely with the nightmare that is the film. At some parts the film seems like a conventional horror film only to flip to the dark side where the crazy sit resides.
Chances are you won’t see a weirder film this year unless you are really trying. Once more Nicolas Cage shows that he is a talent to reckon with.