Tag Archives: Mandy

Color Out of Space

23 Jan

‘Color Out of Space’: It’s classic Lovecraft updated with classic Nicolas Cage freakout

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If you were tickled pink by Nicolas Cage doing his goofball gonzo best in the bloody revenge thriller “Mandy” in 2018, sharpen your knives for another foray into the freaky with some genuinely glorious hambone-gnawing moments. In this adaption of H.P. Lovecraft’s favorite story, “Colour Out of Space” – which has had several cinematic spins, including “Die, Monster, Die!” back in 1965 starring Boris Karloff – Cage plays Nathan Gardner, trying to live off the grid in the farmhouse he grew up in under the thumb of a controlling patriarch.

The pursuit of Eden (in the fictional town of Arkham, which Lovecraft situated in our fair state and used often in his tales, though the film’s not shot here) doesn’t last long. Nathan’s attempt at growing tomatoes isn’t going so well – he’s a Gardner who can’t garden – though his alpaca endeavor seems to be doing marginally better. Then there’s Nathan’s wife, Theresa (Joely Richardson) who’s wildly unhappy with the spotty Wi-Fi and can’t work, while their daughter Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur) practices Wiccan rituals in the woods.  Rounding out the nuclear-plus clan are big brother Benny (Brendan Meyer) who gets stoned while tending to the woolly creatures in the barn and the youngest, little Jack (Julian Hilliard), something of  mama’s boy who becomes drawn to the voices he hears in the old well out front.

Things get really weird after an electrical storm drops a meteor in the front yard. The anemic tomatoes suddenly grow plump and large – but taste like crap – while fuchsia mushrooms crop up and a large technicolor dragonfly bemuses Jack. It’s all a wonderment, until the dog goes missing and mom goes into a hypnotic trance while paring vegetables in the pantry – the scene is the edgiest moment in the film and one that’ll have you wincing before anything goes wrong. Turns out the meteor’s an alien invasion of sorts that’s transported a “color” here to contaminate the water supply, mutating/possessing those who quaff it. Watching Nathan pull a clingy jellyfish creature from the shower drain will give you as many second thoughts about entering the bathroom as “Psycho” (1960) did.

Things work their way into John Carpenter’s “The Thing” (1982) territory. Tommy Chong pops up as the tripped-out hippie down the lane and the small-town cops are late to the game as Cage’s Nathan starts to do his very best Jack Torrance. You want to say you’ve seen it all before, but you have to remember Lovecraft was a contemporary of H.G. Wells, penning tales of the outré long before Stephen King was in diapers or John W. Campbell cooked up “Who Goes There?” (the basis for “The Thing”). The film also marks something of a comeback for director Richard Stanley, who, after coming to notoriety for his 1990 “Terminator”-esque thriller “Hardware” had a nasty fall when given a chance to helm a passion project, “The Island of Doctor Moreau” in the mid-90s. Yes, the one based on Wells’ book and starring Brando and Val Kilmer – and from which he was fired and replaced a week or so into principal photography, after a litany of production problems forming a rich narrative in its own right). Since then Stanley made a series of documentaries, including “The White Darkness” (2002) about voodoo and, more recently, returned to genre with a segment of the horror anthology “The Theatre Bizarre” (2013). “Color Out of Space” sets Stanley comfortably back where he started. The film looks far more polished than its modest $6 million budget. it’s not fully consistent or narratively clear, but it is a ghoulish pleasure to see Cage ditch his ho-hum dad and dive into the lunatic fringe.

Mandy

17 Jan

‘Mandy’: Hunting for revenge in the woods from hell raisers that forced him to see red

 

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Barry Manilow’s timeless classic will never sound the same after you drink in this midnight cult curio that’s the bloody union of arthouse horror and a bad ’70s head trip. You can already stream it for a fee on Amazon, but the rich artistic palette of red and black (it would make a wicked, stomach-churning double feature with the recent “Suspiria” reimagining) and Nic Cage’s gurgling snarls are best suited for a full, immersive theater experience. “Mandy” is wicked mayhem that’s certainly not for all, and the unwary curious will undoubtably have to avert their eyes during the graphic scenes of ritualized sacrifice, but it’s getting served up regardless for a three-day weekend run at The Brattle Theatre starting Friday (late-night shows only).

Shot in Brussels, but ostensibly taking place in the cold, remote hills of someplace like New Hampshire in the early 1980s, “Mandy” pulls on a battery of horror-genre tropes without feeling ersatz or anemic. Much of that’s due to Cage’s overstuffed performance and director Panos Cosmatos’ relish for revenge, rage and raw imagery. Like “Last House on the Left,” Cage’s Red Miller and his gal – the subject of the inspired title – Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) are a relatively chill couple living a spare simple life out in the woods. He logs, she’s an artist. But one day the leader of a nomadic cult known as the Children of the New Dawn (Linus Roache, from TV’s “Vikings”) catches a glimmer of Mandy and decides he wants “that.” The baddie here doesn’t have a cool name like Silas (like the cult leader from recent Nicole Kidman cop drama “Destroyer”) but Jeremiah Sand – perhaps uninspired names and titles are a means to lull before the spectacular Grand Guignol to come? But he’s far more the real deal when it comes to the macabre, be it mad, prophetic pontifications or slow, bleed-out crucifixions. Needless to say, Jeremiah, his followers and a loyal pack of S&M-clad minions whipping through the woods on dirt bikes and ATVs get their hooks into Mandy, which naturally sets off Red. 

Cage is perfectly over the top as the distraught, rampaging force of nature, and Cosmatos (his late father, George, directed the neo-classic western“Tombstone”) articulates every arterial spray and flesh-piercing plunge with prolonged, agonizing effect. Cinematically, the lush, dark camera work by Benjamin Loeb and the haunting score by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson, whose CV includes “Arrival,” goes far to sell the delectably gonzo bloodbath.  Between brutal beatdowns and bind-torture tie-ups, there’s a smattering of hallucinogenic drug trips (most not taken by choice)  and plenty of death metal to underscore the backwoods mayhem. If that’s not enough, there’s sword fighting with chainsaws, with one opponent wielding a woefully undersized blade. The political or theological agenda of the Children of the New Dawn is never clear, but that’s beside the point; like “Suspiria” or “Race with the Devil” (1975), it’s all about giving it back to the occult freaks so gleefully demonic and drenched in innocent blood.

Between Red’s acumen for bloodletting and Cosmatos’ pushing of boundaries in glamour gore, “Mandy” is poised for near-instant cult classic status. Sadly, not enough time’s allotted to Riseborough, who’s in something of a breakout season with this, “Nancy” and “The Death of Stalin.” The film revolves around her, though she’s never really here. And then there’s that Manilow song; go see “Mandy” and then cue up Barry’s song and see if its texture, tone and tenor isn’t knocked off its old familiar base.