Directed by Panos Cosmatos | Written by Panos Cosmatos and Aaron Stewart-Ahn
With all of the rave reviews out there, I wonder if they saw the same film I did. Sure, Nic Cage is your typical Nic Cage, but there was nothing on display that I would rave about. The director also created the story, and this story is not unique in the slightest. In fact, it borrows so heavily from other cult classics, it’s like Frankenstein; made up
Here come the spoilers.
Red Miller (Nic Cage) and Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough) live in a house in the mountains; the ‘Shadow Mountains.’ Red is a lumberjack and Mandy is an artist. Both live quiet and uneventful lives. That is until the day Mandy is walking along the road and a van full of cult members drives by, their leader taking a liking to Mandy. The film at this point is already running a bit long with exposition (by at least five minutes worth of screen time), then takes a nose dive as what passes as one part Hellraiser, one part Children of the Corn, and a healthy dose of Stranger Things take over. I found myself trying hard to find a scene or sequence that was not homage to another film. I can say Evil Dead, Mad Max, and a plethora of other films can be traced to this film, but this film doesn’t do them justice at all. And don’t get me started on the blue and red obsessive lighting!
Red gets tied up and has to watch his wife burn alive until he eventually gets free and goes on a revenge killing spree. He gets a crossbow named Reaper that for some reason was stored at a friend’s house with no real explanation why (other than to set up some dialogue about the cult). He then blacksmiths a fantastical weapon, even though nothing prior in the film indicates he was capable of such workmanship. Then he spends an entire night killing everyone in such a cheesy way that it’s actually laughable (if it wasn’t trying too hard to pass as gory and horrific).
So, how to fix this film? Well for starters, let’s break down the film as a feverish LCD trip gone bad. If that is established, we can then work that angle into this film. After the climax of the film, have Mandy drive up in a car to pick up Red, which would be different from him getting into the car and seeing Mandy (or Mandy as a ghost). When Mandy looks at him from the car she sees him with sticks in his hands – he has been crushing a piece of a tree bark as if it was the cult leader’s head. They get in the car and drive home, but the end credits show what really happened. Mandy’s friends came over and Red started to have a massive bad LSD trip and they decide to mess with him all night. We get cuts of various scenes in the film, but told from the friends’ perspective.
Mandy passed out so she’s unaware what her friends were doing until she wakes up and goes to pick up Red. This would lend reason why there were so many homages to other films as the friends went along improvising ways to continue messing with Red. Red never killed anyone but they staged fights with Red with bushes and trees. Immediately the film would deserve a repeat viewing, or at least get viewers to come again and drag their friends along for the trip (pun intended). Finally, doing something as bold as this direction would give the horror fantasy genre something special to elevate this film to a true cult status, and not just a wannabe.
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