We’ll become a fiery heap of dead flesh and make them pay, Mandy. This is a ritual about the struggle to raise the dead. By blood. Or, if that’s too much to ask of God, at least allow those who suffer to reek unholy havoc on their oppressors’ heretical hearts.
Here, on the screen, we exist as drenched between Mandy and Red. And the red that basks Mandy is the red transcendence of love. It is a purity of the love they share as a couple, of the love that transcends all Earthly attachments to the cares of the world. They are the infusion of all that is good.
You exude a cosmic darkness… Can you see that?
But there are no more happy endings, right? Conflict and broken selves have become our elixir, our need to sacrifice. And that conflict arrives in the form of Jeremiah Sand, “a righteous man,” the foundation of the violence to come.
Throughout, Mandy is a story of love being torn to bloody bits by the talons of crystalline selfishness. It is a theft of the heart, the terrifying consequence of not being able to get what one wants, and thus, destroying the object of desire. Jeremiah will never be satisfied, his thirst for sexual transcendence and psychotropic illumination will remain stifled, crippled, ever at a distance. Ever lacking. For as long as he craves that which separates him from the love that Red and Mandy share in the truth of their conjoining, will he perish. Whatever Christ-like presence he imagines is within has been shadowed by his own Evil Ego.
Jeremiah is one who is caught by the mirror image of himself, his Lacanian ego-ideal. As he looks into the mirror, lost in the ache of being turned down, he literally begs an answer of himself. He pleads with himself, knowing full well that the only way to satisfy himself is to conquer and kill that which he cannot have. Thus, he burns Mandy to death and makes Red watch. She becomes a sacrifice, an omen. Jeremiah Sand is the Antichrist.
But we pass beyond the licking flames. Red’s life is suddenly doused in the pangs of otherworldly suffering. He’s pierced as the Christ was pierced. He’s left to die in a form of crucifixion, arms bound, wrapped in wounds. And through his suffering, he passes beyond the realm of this world into an Other-World of warped retribution.
Surely, the spirits that haunt Camp Crystal Lake (which exists in this cinematic universe only miles from where Red and Mandy live) have something to do with this unholy transfiguration which he undergoes. Jason Vorhees suffered and drown in that very same lake as the camp counselors fornicated, unaware of the boy’s death. Since that fateful day, the boy’s untimely death triggered the violent need for sacrifice that would be enacted at first by his mother and then by his own resurrected self. Nicolas Cage even speaks of the channeling that occurred between him and Panos Cosmatos, Mandy’s director. He says:
Nicolas Cage / SyFy Wire
And I think Panos wanted that, he wanted me to be almost like Jason-esque, you know, from those horror films that were so popular. Panos and I really both decided what the graph of the performance would be. How much more Jason-esque is he there? Or like a statue there? We built this both together.”
Truly, Red becomes the violent Golem, the embodiment of Jason Vorhees who, upon descending from his barb-wire cross, enters his house and is transfixed by a seemingly innocent commercial for macaroni and cheese, only to be confronted by what will be the impetus — the final absurd trigger to guide him toward his violence — in the form of The Cheddar Goblin.
Cinematically, it is Red’s utter disbelief in what happened, coupled with the “goblin” that he encounters on the television set that brings his suffering to a boil as he melts down in the bathroom. This, and the fact that now that he has lost the Love that drove his life to a transcendent place of purity, now something new melts to the surface.
His “Tiger Self” of rage and absolute psychomagic spiritual fervor slips itself over the veneer of his human self and he becomes the Self of Vengeance. It isn’t just the alcohol coursing his blood. No, it’s the act of coming to terms with what needs to be done. In this realization, Red becomes otherwise. He becomes inhuman.
From this moment, Red seeks out “The Reaper,” which is fitting, because this symbolizes his direct desire to confront death itself. The Reaper becomes an extension of his body. At this point in the narrative, he could have attempted many alternate ways to solve his problem, but death stirs him, has possessed him. And once one has had a direct encounter with “Crazy Evil,” with “Black Skulls,” one will never be the same. Red’s friend even tells him that, “You will die.” Red accepts this prophecy. Red knows that without love, there is no meaning for him. No meaning beyond reaping vengeance on the cruel-hearted killers to slayed the woman he loves.
And Red’s vengeance unfolds. He kills the Black Skulls. He slaughters them all. After that, he goes after Jeremiah Sand’s followers and makes them suffer. Everyone dies viciously by Red’s hand. At this point, and throughout most of the ritual, we are never too concerned with the fantasy logic of the narrative. We are much more drawn in by how Cosmatos crafts his own cinematic universe, a kind of Tarkovskian Slasher aesthetic that mesmerizes us, especially when coupled with the “Tiger Energy” of Nicolas Cage as Red. Honestly, Cage is perfect in this role. He delivers a spiraling sense of unfurled humanity. He is an imperfect fighter, a lost man torn by addiction and the loss of life. Though charismatic, he is also sloppy and unhinged, driven beyond style, completely possessed by that Vorhees evil that emanates from Camp Crystal Lake. This possession is perfect.
In speaking of Mandy, I always turn back to the interior loss of vengeance, for at the end, even though he has killed all of his oppressors, Red remains alone and haunted. I don’t think that his retribution will result in the long-term healing, but we can dream that it might, right? This is a film of the dream of violence, of the idea that violence is a form of therapeutic release. We revel in how Red decimates those who have done him wrong. And, we sympathize with what Red has been through. But would Mandy have supported his decisions toward violence? And is her trace somehow resurrected through his rampage through Hell? Or, perhaps, the purpose of the narrative is to show Red’s journey through suffering as he rises through the ashes only to become his own kind of warped cult-like God? It’s hard to tell. It seems to me that the entire purpose of the narrative is to carry us into ourselves by way of how Cosmatos melts our mind into a man dealing with loss.
“It came from trying to cope with the death of my parents and going into therapy,” the director tells Exclaim! “They’re both kind of art therapy. They’re the cinematic equivalent of being in a room, watercolour painting on rolls of paper or something.”
There is a purity in this thought. The purity comes from the presentation. The feeling of loss that swells through the film infects our heart. For two hours, we become violence and trauma. We suffer with Red. Our vision melts to fire and night. Faces blur. The cosmos swirls within our chest. For as long as she burns, we fight.
Head north… To the heart of the cosmos. To the necessity of becoming.
To what will remain once the fire burns to night and nothing.
And loss. Only loss remains in the peace of what has been done.