I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Features Editor
If you are tired of the comfort that comes from mainstream cinema and are craving to feel completely horrible inside, then you might be up for the challenging, trippy and absolutely insane MANDY.
Starring Nicolas Cage and directed by Panos Cosmatos (BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW), here’s a film birthed in hell (and should have stayed there) that may push the boundaries of your moral center, may cause you to put your therapist on speed dial and may make you sob uncontrollably because your soul was just brutally murdered. (I’m not kidding. MANDY is messed up!)
Set in the 1983 primal wilderness, MANDY is a brutal tale about a broken man named Red Miller (Cage) who goes on a revenge tour. He’s on the hunt for the religious sect, led by Sand Jeremiah (Linus Roache of BATMAN BEGINS), who slaughtered the love of his life, the titular Mandy (Andrea Riseborough).
It’s a paper-thin story that’s an excuse for Cosmatos to paint all the evil and unhappiness in the world on his canvas. It’s like JOHN WICK, except they kill the poor puppy for the first hour, dance around naked and tripping on acid while they do it. It’s disgusting — a feeling the filmmakers likely were hoping to evoke.
I love weird movies. I love movies that take chances and exist in their own universe. I love Nicolas Cage movies. But MANDY is simply too hardcore for my liking. I don’t get my jollies from watching a group of evildoers (who look like they’re in the band Slipknot) sexually assaulting a woman, burning her alive and torturing a man for its first hour. What normally is a five-minute sequence is stretched out to the longest, most unsettling 60 minutes. I understand that the film is trying to put you in a trance, but other movies have accomplished the same in a shorter amount of time. There’s only so much you can handle before you throw in the towel.
There are, admittedly, some cool visuals. Most of the film uses a red, purple and blue tint throughout to fuel the whole drug-induced feel of the movie, but the aesthetics and the few great Cage jokes (“No! You ruined my favorite shirt!”) aren’t enough.
My plan over the weekend is to watch as many feel-good films as I can to wipe this sad memory clean.
MANDY opens Friday at the Alamo Drafthouse Theaters in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. On Thursday night, there is a special advance screening that also will feature an exclusive taped (not live in person) conversation with Panos Cosmatos and Nicolas Cage.