Nicolas Cage's trippy Mandy explained – From tainted LSD to demon bikers

Note: Contains major Mandy spoilers

Panos Cosmatos’ psychedelic, Nicolas Cage-starring Mandy is a film like no other – a prog-rock album that has been brought to life and sent on a wild killing spree with a shiny silver axe.

And though the narrative is largely linear, it’s weird and confusing enough that by the time the credits roll you might find yourself scratching your head and wondering what that intense chainsaw duel was all about.

For the sake of your peace of mind, we’ll do our best to explain exactly what happens in Mandy.

The year is 1983, and Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough) and Red Miller (Cage) are a couple living somewhere near California’s Shadow Mountains. He works as a logger while she minds a store and spends her spare time painting very-’80s fantasy images of the sort they used to sell in Athena.

Unfortunately, one day Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache) – the leader of a cult called the Children of the New Dawn – sees Mandy walking along the road from his van window and becomes obsessed with her. He despatches one of his followers, Brother Swan (Ned Dennehy), to capture her.

Using a strange stone flute called the ‘Horn of Abraxas’, Swan summons the Black Skulls, a demonic-looking biker gang with more than a passing resemblance to Hellraiser‘s Cenobites. He pays them with a jar of strange greenish goop (more on that in a moment), and sacrifices one of the cult members to them in return for their help.

The cult and bikers invade our protagonists’ house and tie Red in the garden. Inside, the female cultists drop LSD in Mandy’s eye and drive the sting of a huge insect into her neck. Tripping her head off, she is brought before Jeremiah, who plays her his album and explains that he was an ‘underappreciated’ (read: terrible) musician who was spurned by his peers but had a religious conversion. He says that he and Mandy are special and belong together, but Mandy just laughs at him, so in a rage he has her hung in the garden and burned to death in front of Red.

Before he embarks on his mission of revenge, Red visits his friend Caruthers (Bill Duke), who explains the origin of the Black Skulls. Rumour has it that they were drug dealers until the scientist cooking up their LSD gave them a tainted batch that drove them mad.

Red goes after the bikers and is promptly captured. He winds up in a house they have taken over and, during his escape, samples a jar like the one the Black Skulls were given by Swan. He experiences intense visions – this is presumably the tainted LSD Caruthers mentioned.

Led by his vision, Red encounters a man making LSD tabs called ‘The Chemist’ (Richard Brake) who points him in the direction of the cult. It’s never explained, but the implication is that The Chemist was the drug dealer who created the Black Skulls.

After killing the rest of the cult, Red’s mind snaps and he has a vision of Mandy, initially back when they first met and then sitting in the car next to him. He drives out of the mountains into what now appears as an alien landscape out of one of Mandy’s paintings, with two planets looming in the sky.

Mandy is ambiguous as to whether the events of the film have a supernatural element or not. Caruthers’ explanation of the Black Skulls suggests that they are just tripped-out bikers, and we suppose that the tainted LSD could give them some ability to shrug off the serious damage that they take fighting Red. Likewise, Red’s later, increasingly weird experiences could be coloured by his trauma and the LSD he samples from the jar.

But on the other hand, the gang seem to be summoned from nowhere by the Horn of Abraxas (a name with magical and demonic associations), and they take payment in human blood – pretty much par for the course where summoning demons is concerned. The tainted LSD seems to have some pretty strange effects on Red too – his voice becomes distorted and he has enough strength to crush Jeremiah’s head with his bare hands. As for the vision at the end, that’s really up to the viewer to decide.

And that final point is really the takeaway from Mandy as a whole. You can inject as much magic and/or psychological trauma into the analysis as you like – though in our book it doesn’t get much more magical than Nic Cage wielding a silver axe against the monsters who’ve wronged him.

Mandy is out now.

Source: Read Full Article