Panos Cosmatos has created a whirlwind of fuckery in this elaborately sadistic and disorientating, ultra-psychedelic horror/thriller, starring Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough and Linus Roache.
The film opens on Red Miller, returning from his job as a logger to his humble home – a small cabin by a lake – somewhere near the Shadow Mountains, where he lives a quiet life with his likeminded partner, Mandy Bloom.
The couple have made a little haven, away from any people or troubles – a place for just the two of them. And they appear to be content with their life and absolutely infatuated with each other.
Mandy is a fantasy artist and avid reader in her spare time. She also has a day job working as a gas station attendant at the local fuel stop.
She first encounters Jeramiah Sand, a self-proclaimed Messenger of God, on her walk to work. He only sees her from a moving car.
And what might’ve taken ten seconds in reality – takes perhaps two minutes in the film. The scene begins to loop. We see it from a distance and then close up; in standard colour and then in only high-contrast red tones. The pair exchange only eye contact.
Both continue on their seperate ways but everything has already changed for Mandy …she just doesn’t know it yet.
An intense combination of epic cinematography and unique visuals ensues as Jeramiah and his LSD-fueled, Jesus-obsessed cult are somehow able to summon demon-men on ATVs to their bidding.
The thing Jeramiah wants? Mandy. He explains to his “hippie” band of followers that when they – he and Mandy – saw each other, it was as if their souls had intertwined and, now, he needs her. (He wants to bone the cute girl he saw).
And so, Mandy and Red are attacked and subdued by the wild gang of bikies-come-demons and the cult arrive for Mandy, while Red is restrained outside with barbed wire.
The only two women that we see in the cult, drug Mandy on her arrival by squirting liquid LSD directly into her eye and stinging her throat with a particuarly heinous and exotic-looking Giant Black Wasp that they keep in a jar before escorting, or rather dragging, her to Jeramiah.Thus ensues possibly my favourite scene in the whole flick.
**SPOILERS CONTAINED BELOW**
In essence, Jeramiah majorly blows wind up his own asshole in a speech to Mandy while she descends into an intense trip. He even plays her a song he has written, about himself and then reveals his penis and naked body, seeming certain she will be as eager to give herself to him as he is to her. Instead, she laughs and screams hysterically.
Utterly humilated and defeated by lack of connection with Mandy, Jeramiah stabs Red in the abdomen and has Mandy’s body brought forward in a heshan sack and burns her alive in front of Red.
Coming to after the home invasion and immolation of Mandy, Red is – in short – an epic fucking mess. All that remains of his lover is dust. The emotions Nicolas Cage give us are not limited or cheap but extensive and rich. He is fully committed to the character. Red’s grief is loud, powerful, scary.
I was entirely convinced that because Mandy’s body had been in the bag when it was burnt, that it was likely she was still alive and the cult had just burnt something else and took Mandy with them when they left. I was wrong. She dead.
This is one of those films where you will either love or hate it because it is such an intense story, combined with visuals and a soundtrack that move you. I felt numb at times watching this. I felt like I was tripping. I felt manic. And that’s why I think it’s a pretty amazing piece of filmmaking but I can understand a lot of people not liking it, for it making them feel the exact same way.