A glorious, facemelting psychedelic rock and roll descent into horror. As much crazy dream as unforgettable trip. Gonzo and surreal, and made with awe-inspiring amounts of style. A screed against the might of cosmic destructive forces (the film opens with deforestation but it’s a memorable monologue about Jupiter, as well as space landscapes, that make that point more memorably) and fundamental tininess of the male ego – director Panos Cosmatos says he finds “nothing funnier and more scary than a delusional man who thinks they’re the center of the universe, and in fact they’re not”, and the skeleton of a plot he grafts the insane experience of the film onto makes that point blisteringly. For all the inherent fridge factor and ensuing angst of the plot, arguably the most pivotal way the film treats the divide between its male and female characters is when the titular character howls with laughter in recognition of the utter hilarity and sad absurdity of the sort of horrors men like the villain give rise to.
The unforgettable use of colour, of motion, the facemelding sequence, the ambiguity of the supernatural horror elements, all of these things stick in the mind, but it’s Nicholas Cage’s performance that leaves the biggest mark. Cosmatos’ gonzo stylings, retro without pretension, sincerity and self-awareness, it all melds perfectly with Cage’s performance, which reaches a highlight in a sequence of self-meditation and emotional outburst after the film’s slow-paced first hour where Cage displays his understated, reflective side instead of his manic, fearless side the second half gives great demonstration to.
Completely unforgettable. A relentless experience. Four arrows and an axe.