Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” - Romans 12:19 (NRSV) If there was ever a film that represented the platonic ideal of a “midnight movie”, Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy might just be it. Beginning like a gauzy fever dream before morphing into a nightmarish acid trip, Cosmatos’ 80’s-horror-tinged revenge epic simultaneously pays homage to it’s very clear antecedents (think Evil Dead, Deathwish, and David Lynch at his Red Room-iest heights of nightmarish exploration of the subconscious) and builds it’s own unique aesthetic world. To attempt to summarize Mandy is an exercise in futility. While it may seem a cliché, this is a film that is meant to be experienced in all of it’s visceral surreality. To say that the plot revolves around a man (Nic Cage in a role whose depths of crazy seems tailor-made for him) whose lover (Andrea Riseborough) is murdered by a psychedelic-drug taking sex cult, leading him to systematically exact brutal vengeance on every being (humans and strange demonic ATV gang members alike) responsible for his pain with crossbows, chain-saws, and a home-smelted battle axe only scratches the surface of just how over-the-top this film is. From the garish colors of the cinematography to Jóhann Jóhannson’s at turns abrasive and beautiful score to the deeply unsettling and yet strangely authentic performances from Cage and the film’s big baddie, Linus Roache, you’ve never seen anything quite like this film. About now you might be asking, “Why would I ever want to see something like this?” And it’s a valid question. This is an unquestionably dark, hyper-violent film designed in many ways to be an assault on the senses. It goes without saying that it’s not for everyone. If I’m honest, I couldn’t in good conscience recommend it to just anyone. But I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I saw. While Mandy is shot through with darkness, what set this film apart for me was that for those willing to look past the nihilistic absurdity of the film’s main action, at the core of the narrative is a man dealing with the pain of having his love violently taken from him. His Lamech-style quest for vengeance may be a moral dead-end, but if the witness of the scriptures and experience is to be believed, the impulse behind it is not uncommon to humankind… it is in fact ancient, primal, and if we are honest, deeply relatable in the deepest recesses of our own souls. As Christian’s, we believe that the sting of death has been removed by our union with the resurrected Christ. In him we have hope that transcends our circumstances and in the Spirit, power to resist the impulses that would lead us to vengeance, trusting that death is not the end and that, ultimately, the justice of God will prevail. Lest we take the power of these realities for granted, in Mandy Panos Cosmatos gives us a look into a world without the hope of resurrection and with no recourse for justice but our own force of will, and it is a bleak world indeed. In a world that runs on antagonisms small and large and where violent rhetoric often gives way to violent action, I think there might be value in being confronted with the stark reality of where these impulses ultimately lead us: bruised and bloodied in body and mind, with no one to comfort us but ghosts.