Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.
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.