by Kyle B. Stiff
“Black Skulls, Jesus Freaks, and Weird Hippie-types, Man! Crazy Evil!”
MANDY depicts a mythological “war in the heavens” as seen through the highly creative lense of a lurid, high-contrast revenge film. Specifically, I think it’s a continuation of the story of Saturn’s fall at the hands of Jupiter, and Saturn’s subsequent encounter with the Gnostic resurgence that sprang out of the relatively recent discovery of the Nag Hammadi codex. In short…
RED (Nicholas Cage) is SATURN and MANDY is URANIA, muse and daughter of JUPITER
In the original Saturn myth, Saturn was either a brutal tyrant or the god-king of a golden age of plenty, depending on who you ask. In any case, there was a prophecy that he would be overthrown by his own children. In order to prevent such a future, he made a habit of eating his newborn children. His wife Rhea had enough of this, so she switched out one of her newborn babies (Jupiter) with a rock, which Saturn ate. That may sound strange, but then again, the actual planet Saturn does a great job of consuming or redirecting stray meteoroids on a regular basis, which helps us out a great deal. Anyway, Jupiter grew up to be a real badass, raised an army, attacked his father, pulled his siblings out of Saturn’s belly, then they all took turns beating the crap out of him. Jupiter and his siblings divided the universe among themselves, and Saturn was cast out of the heavens.
In MANDY, our story begins with Red, an avatar or incarnation of Saturn, now laboring like a common man after his fall from grace. Saturn is a god of harvest, but also a god of limitations, of “cutting things short”, so chopping down trees is an appropriate job for his human incarnation. We see him turn down an offer of booze. In fact, before he met Mandy, he was just another one of those drunk, broken men who seem so common these days. He has also given up politics entirely, a sign that he has given up hope of ever regaining his lost throne. This is evidenced by the fact that he turns off Reagan’s speech on the radio; any other normal person, upon hearing the voice of the Great One, would have slammed on the brakes, gotten out of their vehicle, and done backflips with tears in their eyes. But not Red. He is living a simple life full of simple joys.
What makes such a life possible? Why did he not drink himself to death?
I believe Jupiter felt sorry for his father, and gave him one of his own daughters in marriage. Mandy is undoubtedly an avatar or incarnation of Urania, the muse of astronomy. As a muse, her thoughts are always in the clouds, focusing on her artwork, her stories, her dreams, and her curiosity about the planets (of course Jupiter is her favorite, since he made her). Red is in awe of Mandy. Since his powers are destructive, he can hardly understand how she makes such wonderful pictures. He looks at her as if she is a wonderful and unknowable enigma, and who can fault him for that?
Also note that when they discuss their favorite planets, Red claims that he likes Galactus the best – because Galactus eats planets, just as Red did back when he sat on the throne as Saturn!
Before we continue, you have to understand that I’m going to be indiscriminate with the spoilers. If you haven’t seen MANDY yet, then please stop reading this dumb blog and check it out. Otherwise, let’s continue.
So Red and Mandy live in a happy bubble together, but Red’s intuition about a looming threat is ignored and Mandy is murdered. Red is even crucified (twice!), with a nail in one hand, a “crown of thorns” placed on his head (or barbed wire wrapped around his mouth, in this instance), and he is stabbed in the side by a hell-blade just as Christ was stabbed in the side by the Lance of Longinus.
Red survives, and he ends his self-imposed limitations. He opens up a bottle of booze while screaming in rage and drinks in his underwear like some kind of freak. He retrieves an old weapon, a crossbow named the Reaper – another name for the god Saturn – and then he even forges a hand-to-hand weapon. His Saturnian nature is back, because his new weapon looks like a sickle on steroids. The sickle, the scythe, and the crescent are all symbols of Saturn, for he is the Grim Reaper who knows the limit of life and marks the death of all living things. It’s interesting to note that the Book of Revelations (from the Christian Bible) has an angel who is given authority to harvest what are often referred to as the “grapes of wrath”. He sits and waits with his scythe, then when he gets the green light, he goes to work harvesting souls in an incredible bloodbath. It’s worth noting that Communism and Islam, two of the worst things that have ever happened to the human species, both use moon-shaped sickles or crescents as their symbols, which is appropriate given their unbelievable body count.
But who is responsible for putting Red on this blood-soaked path of revenge? Who could have killed poor Mandy?!
The Children of the New Dawn are the culprits. Jesus freaks! Or… are they Jesus freaks? Actually, they are…
It would make sense for a movie coming out of Hollywood to depict an innocent woman in a pentagram t-shirt being kidnapped and murdered by evil Christians. If that was the case, I might see this film being a revenge story in which pagan gods band together against Christianity. However, I don’t think the cult of Jeremiah Sands represents actual Christianity, based on a few key pieces of evidence.
Jeremiah’s intense beta and right-hand man, Brother Swan, uses an infernal device known as the Horn of Abraxas to summon the Black Skull gang. Abraxas is a chicken-headed god revered by Gnostics. He is sort of a Prime Archon, the god-being behind the creation of all other worlds. I used to be really interested in Gnosticism; anyone with a brain wired for conspiracy theory and spotting patterns can’t help but put time into researching a religion supposedly made up of the unconventional books kept out of the “mainstream” Bible. But they are heretics, calling evil good and good evil, with a bizarre creation story and alternate versions of the Gospels. There was no evil conspiracy to keep Gnostic books out of the Bible, they just don’t fit. Deepak Chopra may as well get in if we’re going to allow the Gnostics into the Bible.
Another point that the Children of the New Dawn aren’t necessarily true Bible-thumping bogeymen: Jeremiah turns Red into a martyr, then gloats over him by explaining the “problem” with Jesus – that he didn’t get someone else to do his suffering for him. This is clear-cut blasphemy, even from the perspective of a Protestant!
In fact, our Gnostics cultists sound like characters pulled straight out of the 80s “Satanic Panic”, when it seemed like children all over America were falling into the hands of demon-worshipping pedophiles. That whole era has been brushed off as a case of mass hysteria, but it is interesting to note that Teal Swan, the world’s most hated New Age guru, says that real Satanists always pretend to be Christians, and even have their own churches. But, speaking of New Age, there’s a little of that in Jeremiah’s cult, too. When he’s trying to psychologically break Mandy, he mentions that we are all one, which is pretty much the cornerstone of New Age philosophy (aliens are obsessed with drilling this idea into abductees). It even starts to work a little bit, as Jeremiah’s words and charisma work in tandem with the Chemist’s LSD and Mandy starts to see her own face superimposed on Jeremiah’s. If we are all one, then why not live as if life is a “beautiful dream” (a phrase used by the young female cultist, can’t remember her name) and live to take care of Jeremiah’s narcissistic desire for attention? He outlines his entire philosophy, how God told him that everything is all one, and thus, everything is his for the taking. A pretty convincing argument for a self-involved blowhard. But Mandy retains control over her sense of self (that pesky individual ego that all New Agers are constantly disparaging) and she laughs at Jeremiah. He’s not good enough to be anywhere near her. He can’t handle not being taken seriously, and like a true narcissist he runs to the only god he believes in – that beautiful face in the mirror! The unbelievably handsome man on the other side of the mirror tells him to never, ever doubt himself. Can you imagine the tortured sense of loneliness that must come from being a narcissist who thinks everything in the world exists only to amuse them? And the frustration they must feel when someone doesn’t perform the role the narcissist has assigned to them?
It’s also worth noting that Jeremiah’s puffy white robe is reminiscent of the robe worn by the founder of the Raelians, a UFO cult known for gathering beautiful women who can “take care of” Rael, the leader of the cult. There’s even a pic of some of Rael’s “angels” licking cocksicles with him in the background, slobbering and looking like he can’t believe how lucky he is to be the leader of a cult. Jeremiah Sands is in a similar position, handing out religious platitudes to form a meaningful narrative around his own failed music career and the bottomless pit of horniness that makes up the life of a man.
Jeremiah ends up forcing Mandy into a bag and executing her, just like in her story (her prophecy?) about the starlings. But he picked the wrong family to mess with. What happens next might seem like a clear case of Christians versus pagan gods, but again, I don’t think that’s the case. Despite Hollywood stories about Christians ruthlessly attacking pagans, in general the Church doesn’t compete with pagans. What do they do? Christians set up shop, they keep their hands off pagan holidays so nobody gets pissy, and then they create a cultural taboo around human sacrifice, which is a big deal in pagan religions that is never talked about. This creates a one-way pipeline into the Church. People often point to pagan roots of various Christian holy days and think it’s evidence of some kind of theft, but it’s actually proof that Christians were surprisingly *kind* to pagans; I say surprising because, given the string of violent encounters that make up historical accounts, and given Hollywood’s depiction of Christians as bullies, benign behavior is the last thing one would expect. There are, of course, exceptions. But the one-way pipeline into the Church is a real thing – until just a few years ago, nobody reverted back to paganism because nobody would willingly sacrifice a relative if there was a way out of it, and human sacrifice was a large part of pagan beliefs. It took me a long time and several history books to realize this, but that’s one of the big reasons why Christianity spread so quickly; not because “crusaders” fought every pagan they came across (get real), but because beating Uncle Jojo’s head in with a mallet is about the last thing anybody wants to do. If eating a piece of bread and saying it’s the body of a god-man who died for you so you don’t have to die for him means you can stop sacrificing dudes to invisible demons who like to ruin crops, people will do it.
Anyway, in order for the Children of the New Dawn to carry out their assault on Red and Mandy, they have to call in some muscle. They can’t do it themselves, as they mostly like laying around, watching tv, doing drugs, and having sex with each other. They’re hedonists, not fighters. That’s why they summon the infernal enforcers known as…
The Black Skulls
The Horn of Abraxas summons the Black Skulls. Just what in the hell are these weird, inhuman, demon-possessed bikers?!
If we watch MANDY without the influence of Black Rainbow, we might imagine that the Chemist accidentally or purposefully gave the Black Skulls some bad LSD, fried their brains, and turned them into violent murder-junkies. The guy from Predator strongly implies that this is the case. However, I don’t think the Chemist had anything to do with their origin. If not the Chemist, then who created them? Or… who summoned them originally???
I believe these psycho bikers had their humanity erased by the same process that stripped Barry Nyles from Beyond the Black Rainbow of his humanity. It’s safe to assume that MANDY and Black Rainbow take place within the same universe. I believe the same drug used by Dr. Arboria – a black pool that sends one across the Abyss – transformed the Skulls into their current form. Remember, when Barry Nyles (from Rainbow) heard the words of his handler’s handler in a phone call that was not meant for him, and he decided to stop pretending to be human, he wore black leather and removed all the appendages that made him appear normal. The Black Skulls also wear leather and are only vaguely human. If Barry had been a simpler man, perhaps an uneducated biker, his unfortunate trip into the Abyss might have turned him into a goon prone to short-term gain and violence, rather than give him a case of slow-burning sadism and a narcissistic split personality.
So the Black Skull bikers were probably experiments abandoned by either Dr. Arboria or Barry Nyles. Or perhaps they escaped. In fact, they may hate their own existence more than anything else, and so they are always on the lookout for entrances into Dr. Arboria’s facility so they can kill their maker. Did you notice that the house the Black Skulls were squatting in inexplicably had a concrete-lined “bottomless pit” in the basement? Was this an entrance to the facility where Elena was kept? What about the dead man and woman in the bedroom? Were they employees of the Arboria Institute, living above the facility until they were found by the Black Skulls? The Skulls’ hatred of their creators would certainly explain why the man had been bum-fuggled to death by Knife Dong (note the blood stains around his tail pipe if you don’t believe me).
When the Black Skulls first roll up, the lights from their bikes almost look like a UFO is landing. Even the language used to describe the Skulls makes it sound as if they come from another world, thus tapping into the same dynamic often seen with aliens, demons, or Lovecraftian beings who simply should not be in our world. Note that Red and Mandy are afflicted with sleep paralysis when the bikers attack; inducing paralysis is always the first weapon employed by aliens, “shadow people”, or whatever it is that haunts our sleep. That’s a strange detail to add, isn’t it? Why not just show the bikers breaking windows, kicking down doors, and manhandling Red before he becomes a hero? The reason is because the mind of Cosmatos is tuned into contemporary myths concerning aliens, conspiracy, strange psychic powers – basically, the realm of the modern divine.
This could also explain why they look like high-testosterone versions of the creatures from Hellraiser, the Cenobites, who are also interdimensional beings obsessed with pain. Note that a Cenobite was (historically) a type of monk, and there is something monk-like about the Skulls’ mortification and their lack of a normal sexual existence. One of them even has a knife for a dong (a what!!!), which is why I called him Knife Dong earlier (genius over here). Normal human bikers might experience a lot of hangovers and wrecks, but ultimately, they want to feel good, whether they’re partying or riding fast. But the Black Skulls have been bled dry of their humanity, and all that’s left are screaming demons riding around in leather meat-suits. To paraphrase the black guy from Predator, “When I seen them things, they were in a world of pain. But you know what the freakiest part is? They fuckin’ loved it.”
One more thought, and this comes out of “left” field. When Red verbally confronts one of these creatures, he calls it a “vicious snowflake”. It might sound odd, but when you consider that “snowflake” is a term used by the right against the sensitive left, you could draw a parallel between the Black Skulls and Antifa. Both are enforcers, both seem to be demon-possessed, and many people have made the claim that Antifa (or their organizers) are paid. The Black Skulls definitely don’t work for free. Whether paid or not, they fill the role of “useful idiots”, tools to be used and discarded. Antifa also makes sense in our scenario because Red, being the avatar of Saturn, represents one of mythology’s greatests tyrants, a paragon of fascism, thus making him the natural enemy of our infernal version of Antifa.
Whatever the case, after Red overcomes the Black Skulls and proves he has what it takes to hunt down the Children of the New Dawn, he finally earns the assistance of an oracle.
As stated, I don’t think the Chemist gave four bikers some “bad acid” and turned them into murder-junkies. Since the Chemist seems far too well-meaning and empathic to ruin the lives of four humans, even on accident, I think that Dr. Arboria is the “chemist” that the black guy from Predator is referring to; totally plausible, since we already know Dr. Arboria has access to a magical goo leading to the abyss beyond all human understanding. The Chemist from this story, on the other hand, is a very powerful psychic with hippie ideals, and he lives for the goal of enhancing human evolution through acid, which is kind of the dream of every burn-out who can’t even find their own car keys. But, of course, the Chemist is no common burn-out. He is probably more of a living force of nature like Elena, godlike but only partly connected to our world. Red does not even need to speak to the Chemist, as he can already see into Red’s mind and spirit. This brings to mind the substance “telepathine”, either a key ingredient or an alternate name for ayahuasca.
Note that he calls Red a “Jovan warrior” – a warrior of Jupiter. Despite Red’s favorite planet being Saturn, despite his weapons being a scythe and a crossbow called Reaper, he has now fully devoted himself to another person, a daughter of Jupiter. Red has crossed over the threshold of living only for himself, which is a miserable existence, and now lives for the love of another, which gives meaning to existence. This idea is a nonsensical paradox to libertarians, but sorry, guys, it’s just the general trend of every individual’s spiritual journey. At any rate, Red’s love for Mandy, and his rage at her loss, has turned him into a blood-soaked hero who cannot be stopped.
The Chemist probably became a highly sensitive psychic empath just like Elena from Beyond the Black Rainbow. That is, he joined the Arboria Institute, went into the black goo, crossed the Abyss, saw the face of God, and returned both more and less than he was before. He came back a decent and relatively “good” person, like Elena, and unlike Barry Nyles (also from Rainbow) and the Black Skull biker gang, who lost everything that was good in them and became meat-vehicles driven by demons.
Note that the Chemist doesn’t seem to have any problem with keeping a tiger in a cage until he sees the situation from Red’s perspective. Once he sees the noble beast from our hero’s eyes, he frees Red’s spirit animal to mark the coming of justice. In this way he acts as an oracle, in that he can become empty and see things from another’s perspective. It’s empathy taken to an extreme. As an oracle, he clears up any confusion felt by the hero and straightens out the crooked path leading to the goal.
The Reaper comes as Mandy foretold and in the end Red drives through a hellish red-lit world where strange planets loom overhead. He has brought justice through violence but, like Barry Nyle in Beyond the Black Rainbow, he ends up utterly alone, riding alongside someone who is not even there. Red sees an image of Mandy and smiles, remembering a time when he was lost and alone and without his throne, but she found him and changed him. Red is lost and alone once again, but now he has weapons, he has reclaimed his mantle of godhood by snatching it from Jeremiah Sands (remember his strange insistence on his own godhood?), and he has a hopelessly fractured soul that will likely never be pieced back together again. MANDY’s ending is the bleakest I have seen in a long time.
Beyond the Black Rainbow was set in synthetic corridors and ended in the wilderness, while Mandy begins in the wilderness and ends in an alien landscape echoing with the revving engine of a fallen god. I can’t help but wonder if Panos Cosmatos will revisit that strange world and pick up on that note of intense loneliness where Mandy dropped the viewer off without any real promise of return.
As I’ve often said on this blog, I don’t think that my Saturn-Urania-Gnostic narrative was consciously planned by director Panos Cosmatos. He’s said that story is the least important part of film. Then again, does any artist ever really understand the full picture of what their muses give them? Forces and beings beyond our understanding rampage through the collective human psyche. Atheism no longer carries any weight in its arguments, it simply asserts its own unobservant nature. The ancient gods are alive and well, and our age is the result of a war in the heavens spoken of in the Book of Revelation.
What, you don’t think the gods are real? Panos Cosmatos gives us a glimpse into that timeless conflict, which with a little practice can be turned into They Live glasses that present our own age from an ancient perspective in realtime as it happens. I can’t help but remember when Obama was first elected, how the media blew him up, with magazine covers depicting him as a multi-armed Hindu god or as Superman. Then, during KEK’s rebellion, Trump bypassed the mainstream media, and grassroots memes flooded the internet village square like a Biblical plague of frogs. Trump promises a Jovian storm as the sickle of Islam rises over Europe just after ISIS (the same name as the Egyptian goddess) is crushed underfoot. China erects a giant statue of Guan Yu, their god of war, and the Pope’s audience chamber in Vatican City is constructed to look like a demonic serpent, complete with a background of Christ writhing in agony in hell. The magical cauldron of CERN has a symbol of three sixes intertwined and more than one conspiracy theorist has noticed that Israel’s symbol is a star with six points, six triangles, and a six-sided hexagon, indicative of the Beast of endtimes prophecy whose name is 666. It’s easy to make fun of Alex Jones ripping off his shirt and screaming about gay frogs, but without him, the idea that the leaders of the West actually dress in robes and worship a statue of Molloch in the woods would have seemed completely unbelievable. An unashamed Christian known as Q has pointed us to a mind-blowing number of sealed indictments that may one day be unsealed like the scrolls of Revelation, talking in all seriousness about an evil cult even as billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein buries the tunnels leading to his bizarre temple on Little Saint James or “Pedophile Island”. I haven’t even mentioned the black Saturnian cubes, or maybe Metatron’s Cubes, that sit in front of a surprising number of public spaces all around the world, and not just the Kaaba of Mecca.
We live in a world where everything that we have made first came from our minds, and we only vaguely understand our own minds. Even if the gods only dwell there, they still have an inordinate amount of influence over everything we do. The presence of the gods is so obvious, their conflicts so apparent once the eyes are open, that you only have to look a little ways beneath the surface of things to see their subtle wars echoing throughout our lives.
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