I came here by way of Johann Johannsson’s strange, dark and intense score (the last one that he recorded, I believe, prior to his passing). Otherwise, I would have likely given it a wide berth, if only because of Nic Cage’s involvement. I used to like Cage’s work but his increasingly manic OTT-style wore increasingly thin over the years. I think his Crusader Elvis in Season of the Witch was the final straw.
Anyhow, spoilers ahead- I don’t usually like to raise any with films still fairly ‘new’ but I can’t help it with this one. So anyway, here we are. I suppose an easy shot would be one of style over content, but that’s clearly the intention here- the story is a paper-thin b-movie plot and its the colour-saturated, gaudy 1980s-era VHS sensibility that raises this into something that is either, well, genius or trash. Johannsson always had a gift for knowing what suited the film project he was working on, and he nails it here – so much so that I’ll give the film the benefit of doubt and declare it brilliant. His music score drips grim darkness and dread and colours the film as intensely as the cinematographer and all the work likely done in post to make the image such gorgeous madness.
Madness is the key word here, and I’d suggest that this films director should go and make a Lovecraft film next. Watching Nic Cage’s lumberjack woodsman descend into madness during this film was an experience indeed- more so because Cage somehow stayed fairly restrained throughout. He didn’t play it overboard and slip into farce- instead we can sense the pain torturing him and by the end he’s slipped into some other universe entirely. I almost expected the film to cut to a shot of him dead and his car wrapped around a tree, revealing the true insanity of the final shots as he drives under blood-red skies with his wife alongside him on the seat.
In some ways, particularly in its style over content (or style is content), the film reminded me a great deal of The Neon Demon, but this film is far, far superior. For what it is, its almost perfect. There. I really enjoyed a new Nic Cage movie. The world really is going to hell in a handbasket.
And we really lost something so special with Johannsson’s passing. This film sounds so remarkable and strange, what bizarre wonders did he have yet ahead of him? Alas, we will never know, and that just adds another level of pain and darkness to this strange insane film.