Which Is More Bat-Shit Bananas:
Nicolas Cage Or This Movie…?
“Like taking a bad LSD trip with David Lynch through Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist and ending up trapped inside an early Iron Maiden album cover, it’s an extraordinary sensory overload… After this absorbing, gory movie, you’ll emerge like you’ve crawled out of its guts” – Larushka Ivan-Zadeh.
I remember all my life, raining down as cold as ice. Shadows of a man, a face through a window, crying in the night…
Heck, this man only happens to be Nicolas frickin’ Cage! Here he’s Red Miller, a lumberjack, but – hoo boy! – he’s NOT okay. “Crying?” Ha! That’s putting it mildly. Brooding in his bathroom, Cage is growling with grief and hollerin’ with hate in his own legendary, inimitable way, splashing vodka down his throat and over his wounds, ‘cos a wacko redneck hippy cult known as Children Of The New Dawn infiltrated the blissful, pine-scented haven in the Pacific Northwest which he had shared with his girlfriend, Mandy. Until they killed and cremated her...
From Panos (Beyond The Black Rainbow) Cosmatos, prepare for a blood-red phantasmagoria of ethereal imagery and INSANE violence.
Just one long horrific gonzo bloodfest, this most certainly is not.
No, in one of its most striking scenes, in order “to get the girl,” Brother Swan drives deep into the woods and blows the Horn of Abraxas, thus summoning a biker gang known as the Black Skulls – NOT your ordinary bunch of drug-addled Peter Fondas. This movie rams all logic and reality into the furnace, revelling instead as an almost-delirious, acid-drenched dark fantasy. Therefore these queasy riders just happen to be monstrous psychos in spiked leather gear – as if they chugged in from Mordor via the Mad Max wasteland – “speaking” with suitably deep and demonic drawls. Mercifully, we never get a proper butcher’s at their ugly mugs – perhaps it’s just as well! Once, apparently, they were normal men, but The Chemist cooked up “a special batch” of psychedelicacies, transforming them into the freakiest bunch of devilish antagonists since Hellraiser’s cenobites. They’re mostly depicted as menacing figures, eerily silhouetted against the thick, crimson smog…
“This outrageously over the top film is nothing if not uninhibited, often visually amazing… an uncompromising midnight movie” – Peter Bradshaw.
As you just heard, the intense images herein are ably and effectively complemented by Johann (Arrival) Johannsson’s in turns blistering and breathtaking soundtrack. Sadly, Johann passed away shortly before the film’s release last October, so there is a message: “Dedicated to our friend Johann Johannsson” during the end credits – the only time this whole production presents something sane and respectful.
Arguably the outstanding track is the Love Theme; wonderfully evocative of Vini Reilly AND Robert Fripp at their sublime best- it’s uncanny. Even reminded me of Popol Vuh’s mesmerising score for Aguirre: Der Zorn Gottes (1974), itself a dizzying descent (down the Amazon river) into an ever-swirling madness.
If you go down in the woods tonight – hey! – you’re sure of Nicolas Cage being your BIG surprise! Having already played the Ghost Rider – Spirit of Vengeance – (twice!) Nasty Nic knows plenty about exacting big paybacks.
Here – by Jove! – he’s as cross as two sticks. And crazy?! Oh yes. Ol’ Rage Cage is – as we say in Blighty – a few Hobnobs™ short of a full packet…
Speaking of hobnobs, the leader of the New Dawn cult is Jeremiah Sand, a Manson-like, failed musician nutjob played by Linus Roache. Personally, it wasn’t his performance that unsettled me, but his uncanny resemblance to a disgraced ’70s UK children’s TV presenter…
Thou shalt not mess with an unbalanced woodsman who makes his living using a chainsaw. Well, really: you’d think those dozy Dawn dipwits would know that!
Straight after his beloved has been killed, Red staggers indoors; the Children forgot to switch the TV off: cue the movie’s most surreal moment: a bizarre (and thankfully FAKE) commercial for Cheddar Goblin, a horrendous puppet barfing cheezy chunks over a couple of giggling children sitting at their breakfast table!
In order to wreak his lunatic revenge spree against Sant, his New Dawners AND the Black Skulls, Red pays a visit to an old chum: Caruthers (played by Bill “Predator” Duke) a taciturn recluse who lives in a dilapidated trailer elsewhere in the forest. He’s been looking after “The Reaper”: Red’s CROSSBOW.
And that’s not all! Whoa, no!
Red even goes to the trouble of forging The Beast: his very own badass hippy-hackin’ AXE. Ah, those Dwarf-lords in their mountain halls would have been proud…
It’s very convenient that Red has someone like Caruthers with which to discuss his revenge-spree. At one point, Caruthers remarks: “These arrows cut through the bone like a fat kid eats cake.”
HELLO? DID ANYBODY SAY CAKE?! 😉
“The psychotic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight” – Joseph Campbell.
Mandy herself – played here by Andrea Riseborough – exudes a fragile and doe-eyed beauty, and uet there’s something creepy anout her otherwise innocent look. It’s like watching Shelley Duvall in The Shining all over again…
Although its never mentioned, Mandy seems to have suffered a shocking experience at some point in her past, for she has totally withdrawn from civilization, to nestle in the healing tranquility of nature, and while away her days producing comic book art. And reading dark fantasy novels. It would have been nice to see more of Andrea (Birdman) Riseborough and Nicolas (Birdy) Cage together, but let’s face it: this “visionary director” seemed far too eager to bring on this
If teenage Brad had gawped at this, he would certainly have squealed with delight at the numerous sequences of blood-spewing on display here. But these days…
Perhaps it’s a tad too excessive (for me).
Perhaps one has reached that stage in life where the flow of excellently-crafted words pouring forth is infinitely more preferable…
There’s no point in developing these one-dimensional cult members – everybody knows that gruesome ends await each one of them anyway! As to be expected, Red is haunted by disturbing dreams, but here, all those brief sequences are… animated.
And – oh yes – there’s a tiger. A live – not animated, LIVE – tiger. What’s it doing there…? Heck, not even yer ol’ buddy Brad can explain that one…
Apart from a President Reagan speech on the car radio, and a couple of retro football shirts, there is little indication to suggest that this “supremely unnerving horror dimension” is actually set in 1983. Retrobrad had half-expected an ’80s soundtrack(!), but: soz, folks, there’s no Cyndi Lauper or Kajagoogoo to bop along to here…
However, there is an intriguing assortment of retro-references. The chainsaw duel is reminiscent of the duel featured in The Texas Chinsaw Massacre 2 (1986). And these proceedings commence with the classic Universal Pictures logo from the 70s (a personal fav!)
At one point, Red mutters something about: the psychotic drowns where the mystic swims, alluding to the quote by mythologist Joseph Campbell (see above!)
Incidentally, the epilogue – considering the cram-packed cavalcade of chaos and carnage that preceded it – is a surprisingly pleasant, almost-incongruous, but very much appreciated, totally non-trippy bittersweet sequence. Having shattered our senses and churned our stomachs, Cosmatos sees fit to round it all off by well and truly rending our hearts. (If you can call it that, the post-post-credits scene is just a still image – a montage of Mandy‘s artwork).
Would Brad recommend this gvindhouse show?
Aww gee, that’s a toughie.
There are some unusual and truly astonishing visual flourishes here, but, as forewarned, you will have to endure truly disturbing images lurking within. If and when you decide to watch, make sure that Auntie Mary has left the room…
Stuff the sequels. Raze the remakes.
We need MORE unique works like this, but: less gore, next time… please?
And oh no, Brad will definitely NOT be sending Mandy away!
“Well you kissed me and stopped me from shaking
And I need you today, oh Mandy…”
Honestly, how can a “movie” as DEMENTED as this, offer such a hauntingly BEAUTIFUL Love Theme as this…?
Caruthers: “So, what you huntin’?”
Red Miller: “Jesus freaks.”
Caruthers: “…I didn’t know they were in season, man.”
Red Miller: “Yeah, well…”