2018, Movies

Mandy (2018, Panos Cosmatos)

Would I have liked this insane, phantasmagoric film more if I had seen it at TIFF? That’s one question I’m asking myself. If I had been stuck in a theatre, unable to, say, look up the setting to see that it didn’t seem to make a lot of sense – if I had just been subjected to it, would I have liked it more? Maybe.

I think perhaps the best way to explain this film without the spoilers I will inevitably discuss is to explain the score and soundtrack. It starts with part of perhaps my favourite King Crimson song, “Starless.” (Oddly, that’s in the opening credits.) The score starts out like Vangelis or some other early ’80s synth score, progresses to heavier versions of Berlin Trilogy David Bowie instrumentals, and then goes full-on Sunn O)))) (albeit if played faster) at the climax. That gives you only the faintest idea of the progression.


I don’t like giallo horror movies but I feel like the filmmakers of this movie do. I associate the disregard for reality and insane colours I see in this film with Italian supernatural horror. And it’s just not my type of thing. One of the things I was thinking about in this movie is, “Is this an artful combination of styles and genres I don’t like and that’s why I don’t like it or is it not artful?”

This is an extremely distinct film, visually and in terms of the plot. One of the things I’m struggling with is that this is indeed a distinct film, and I think they deserve some credit for that – I do think this is art, I’m just not sure its good art.

Sometimes I really like a film that takes it’s time getting to the point where it unleashes itself. But I think that this film really, really takes it’s time. And the whole fun with revenge films is the revenge part. This one takes a long time to get going.

The effects sometimes work well – like when their faces merge – and sometimes seem really superfluous. The light is red so much of the time, and there are other colours too, and there’s never any reason for it. Well, there may be some reason for it, but I’m not sure I got it.

The film has a supernatural element but it’s never explained. Sometimes that’s a good thing but it takes talent to do that well. So if you can’t do a good job of not explaining it then you should probably try to explain it just a little bit.

And it’s confusing. Why is the cult about god when there are fucking biker demons? Shouldn’t the cult be worshiping them? Wouldn’t that make sense?

As Jenn says, it’s always the henchmen go first. But the biker aliens are way more interesting and dangerous than the cult so it doesn’t work that they go first. Both in terms of how hard it would be for Cage’s character to kill them and for how hard it would be to find them. But the film would just work better too, as they are inexplicable and dangerous and clearly more of a threat.

About finding them: how does he find them so quickly? He just does. Couldn’t the film spend at least a little bit of time on that instead of the amount of time it spends on the initial death of the girlfriend?

There’s just a lot to critique. And I’m not sure the excessive style makes up for all of it. I like my revenge movies grounded in some semblance of reality and this is off in some other universe. But it also lacks the (intentional) humour I need for that kind of surrealism.


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