Guest Critic: The Haunting Filmography of Panos Cosmatos

"I think the entire message of the psychedelic experience, which is basically the sine qua non of the rebirth of alchemical understanding, the very basis of that understanding is that nature seeks to communicate." - Terence McKenna

Under the Influence with Beyond the Black Rainbow: 

A hypnotic trance that slowly builds its metaphysical slasher vibes into its deconstruction of science-fiction and body horror reflecting the sacred realm of 1 9 8 3 into a clinical fugue state guided by Sinoia Caves pulsating soundscapes. White noise echoes the halls of this neon hallucinogenic hellscape, wondering in blurred distortions. A labyrinth of surrealist horrors drowning in its LSD laced space-aged influences, emerging from a stark B&W ritual re-birth vomiting into a void, a reflection that's a fully formed piece of transcendent cinema, possibly the most intensely personal debut I've seen since Lynch's Eraserhead or Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York with the ferociousness of Raimi's The Evil Dead. The closest contemporary filmmakers forging their influences into deeply personal assaults of cinema would be Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani with their giallo infused expressions of obscurity. It's akin to getting lost on the cover of a classic sci-fi novel, wondering the landscape of the forgotten pages. I've always had such a difficult time expressing my emotions about BtBR because it seemingly suppresses its emotions into its minimalism, but its emotions truly bloom within its otherworldly, but familiar stylistic mood of intensity beaming brightly into one’s psyche.

"All art is exorcism. I paint dreams and visions too; the dreams and visions of my time. Painting is the effort to produce order; order in yourself. There is much chaos in me, much chaos in our time." - Otto Dix

Under the Influence with Mandy: 

"When I die, bury me deep, lay two speakers at my feet, put some headphones on my head and rock and roll me when I'm dead."

“The psychotic drowns where the mystic swims. You are drowning, I am swimming. I'm your God now."

I grew up living inside of films, particularly horror and science fiction for their fantastical realms, listening to the sonic power of heavy metal, flipping through expressionistic pages of comics, and getting lost in the world-building imagination of Dungeons & Dragons. These forms of art lead my young mind into various worlds unlike anything I perceived as reality, but mostly they represented freedom and escape. Being informed by your experiences is sometimes better than the thing you're actually experiencing. You can track events in your life through the culture and art you were consuming at that period, which is ultimate value for such a young soul and one of the most powerful things that can happen to inform your growth. They sculpt us in our formative years and to a large degree influence who we become later in life, especially in an artistic state. Even as a young child I gravitated towards the likes of Evil Dead II, Metallica's Ride the Lightning, or comics like Sam Keith's The Maxx. These are artistic artifacts of my childhood that had very specific, heavy gravity to their existence. MANDY explores these desperate feelings of missing freedom, something I look for in my adult life that I sometimes feel escaped me in my later teen years transitioning into the confusing storm that is adulthood. Something I deeply long for.

My interests are in psychedelics, poetry, surreal forms of animation, the deep emotional impact of music, and the combined artistic alchemy that is cinema. MANDY is a film that represents that freedom. An internal explosion of inspiration. Something that pushes me into a personal, emotional, artistic, and mental state that's constructive in a destructive and chaotic universe. A universe splattered with the bloody poetry of cult nightmares and forgotten VHS memories. A universe soaking in neon dreams and otherworldly magic. Everything about this film is what makes me love art and aspire to make challenging, interesting forms of expression despite any and all self-doubt. 

This film will always remind me of when I was in my teenage years. I was voraciously devouring films late at night, every night and getting lost in metal. I would stay up all throughout the night until morning making VHS double features of midnight oddities, splatter horror, transgressive animation, and everything else my insomnia ridden young mind could conjure into these tapes of madness. The alchemical rituals of making the ultimate collection of late-night cinema magic, dosed with extra layers of weirdness. The feeling of being the only one awake in the house, the inner peace that comes within one witnessing the evolution of themselves as a person and an artist. Erupting into the abyss of all that was (un) holy, the screen was my glowing alter I worshiped at. The feeling of discovering my freedom through cinema and the meditative ambience of being drawn into a world that makes sense. The feeling of a simpler time. MANDY is eternal.

MANDY is a volcanic explosion of mythic and mystical power: I've never experienced the sensation of laughing out loud to being extremely uncomfortable into being deeply upset all in one scene of a film, which happened many times here. The overwhelming sonic textures of the late, great Jóhann Jóhannsson and experimental metal producer Randall Dunn highlighting the juxtaposing of quiet emotions and heavy eruptions of violence. Epic high fantasy melding into the splattering horror of the unknown cults that hide themselves deep within our culture; forever forging the beast. 

Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting and indoor

These films form a collective of influences and a marriage of the equally important highs and lows of cinema and art. The arthouse meets the grindhouse. Conjuring those hazy memories through a lens of everything we loved and how its impression led us into the present. An artist channeling these into daring pieces of cinema that transcend the experience. All Hail Cosmatos!

--Bradley Andrew