Panos Cosmatos’ ’80s revenge horror and heavy metal valentine, Mandy, is a gore-encrusted, magenta-tinged fever dream that bleeds into the senses and contains numerous ’80s movie references. Visually reminiscent of Cosmatos’ psychedelic sci-fi horror debut, Beyond the Black Rainbow, Mandy’s synth-heavy soundscapes, and mythologically-imbued narratives brim with references and tributes.

Exploring the themes of grief, loss, revenge, and the mystifying nature of true love, the film centers around fantasy artist Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough), who consumes every frame with her otherworldly presence, fuelled by her void-like absence, which cannot be restored. Nicholas Cage’s Red Miller is forced to watch her burn alive by Children of the New Dawn’s Manson-like cult leader Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache), resulting in a reality-warping anguish that can only be satiated through violent vengeance.

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While Mandy borrows the skeletal structure of the ‘man-avenges-woman’ trope, Cosmatos uses it merely as a vehicle for storytelling, as the film serves to highlight what Mandy symbolizes, as opposed to Red. As the film progresses, fantasies from Mandy’s subconscious, which include her favorite films, music, and aesthetics, seep into Red’s reality, which transforms into a haunting panorama resembling VHS cover art. Here’s every reference in the ’80s revenge horror, explained.

Title Card and Opening Credit

“When I die, bury me deep, lay two speakers at my feet, put some headphones on my head, and rock ‘n’ roll me when I’m dead.”

These haunting lines dominate the opening frame of Mandy and belong to real-life convicted murderer Douglas Alan Roberts, who uttered them when strapped to a cruciform gurney. Within the thematic context of the film, this opening message represents a volcanic sense of retribution that is often harbored by those who feel that the world-at-large has wronged them. Cosmatos’ motivation behind both Beyond the Black Rainbow and Mandy stem from irreparable grief over the loss of his parents, which seep into the world of Crystal Lake and the worlds that lie beyond. Also, the film’s opening credit pops up well into 75 minutes, reminiscent of the tendril-tinted logos of heavy/black metal bands such as Darkthrone and Sepultura.

CHiPs / Athena

Red’s first lines mimic a knock-knock joke, the punchline to which is a reference to Erik Estrada, who plays Officer Frank Poncherello in the 1977 crime drama, CHiPs. We also see Mandy sketch ’80s-inspired fantasy art, including vivid visions of jungle temples, warriors, and goddesses, which used to be sold at Athena, an art retail chain that produced iconic posters for Lord of the Rings.

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Galactus

Mandy and Red lie in bed and discuss their favorite planets while bathed in celestial, iridescent light, evocative of the stunning, red-tinted sequences in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Mandy chooses Jupiter, due to the 1,000-year-old atmospheric storm on its surface and the hurricane’s ability to swallow entire planets. Red initially chooses Saturn due to its mythical resonance, but jokingly switches to Galactus, the “consumer of worlds and destroyer of planets”, which refers to a powerful being in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Mandy’s choice is reflective of the storm of wrath that rages inside Red, just like Jupiter’s hurricane, known as The Great Red Spot. As Red chooses Saturn, a ringed beauty associated with Greek mythology, it is indicative of how Red perceives Mandy – as a goddess, a force of nature – and is also a prediction of how Mandy’s mythos will later consume reality.

Crystal Lake / Friday the 13th

When asked by a cultist as to where she resides, she says her home is near Crystal Lake, which is the name of the lake in Friday the 13th films, and a reference to Jason Voorhees himself. Mandy and Red ride out into the lake earlier on, whose waters seem deep and treacherous.

Heavy Metal 

Mandy celebrates heavy metal both as a musical genre and as a nod to the 1981 fantasy anime film, Heavy Metal, which has had an indelible influence on Cosmatos. On the sonic and visual front, Mandy is authentically metal through and through – from King Crimson’s haunting prog-metal piece, “Islands”, blaring during the opening to thundercloud guitar riffs and Mandy’s wardrobe, which includes Black Sabbath and Mötley Crüe t-shirts. On the other hand, the enchanting, hallucinogenic animated sequences that intersperse the film are a throwback to Heavy Metal, which also features a glowing, green orb that emits “ghostly eternal light”, symbolizing ultimate evil. Also, the reaper-like scythe that Red wields, later on, is derived from the scythe embedded within Celtic Frost’s logo.

The Manson Cult / Blue Velvet 

The cult leader Jeremiah Sand is delusional and petulant: a failed psych-folk musician who channels his trauma of being rejected into creating a vapid vision driven by wounded ego. Sand’s character has a string of similarities to Charles Manson, including an early life as a jilted musician and a sense of insipid self-entitlement and god-complex. All it takes for Sand’s fragile ego to shatter is Mandy’s long-drawn cackle — a laugh so cathartic and powerful, it annihilates Sand’s delusions of grandeur. There’s also a reference to Lynch’s Blue Velvet, as Sand repeats the same words as the volatile and psychopathic Frank Booth to his followers, “Don’t you f*cking look at me!” repeatedly.

Nightbeast / Cheddar Goblin

During the first 15 minutes, the audience witnesses Mandy and Red’s idyllic life together in their quaint cabin, in which Mandy acts as a reservoir of quiet strength, gently cradling their domestic harmony in a delicate balance. They eat dinner together, watching Don Dohler’s Nightbeast, a 1982 cult sci-fi horror movie about bloodthirsty visitors from outer space. Also, after Mandy’s death, we see an emotionally-shattered Red watching a mac-and-cheese commercial featuring a green, hard-puking mascot named Cheddar Goblin, which has taken a life of its own in the form of Mandy merchandise. Cheddar Goblin is also a humorous reference to the creature feature, Ghoulies.

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Blade Runner / Hellraiser

The Black Skulls, a gang of bikers driven to sadomasochistic insanity by a special batch of LSD, are summoned by the cult via the Horn of Abraxas, an esoteric artifact for summoning evil from varied realities. The Black Skulls, who kill, rape, and cannibalize till the end of time, are heavily inspired by the Cenobites of Hellraiser—demons to some, angels to others—who live a life of twisted agony and pleasure all at once. Red unleashes his skull-crushing wrath upon the Black Skulls and the cult, leading to scenes of graphic ultra-violence with references to Blade Runner, Motel Hell, and Macabre. Apart from this, an epic chainsaw duel ensues in the dead of the night, which bears resemblance to Phantasm II.

Beyond the Black Rainbow 

While Mandyand Beyond the Black Rainbow differ greatly from a narrative standpoint, both films stem from a desire to navigate loss and grief and are bathed in a fiery, unholy light. Two major parallels are formed between Cosmatos’ hypnagogic realms: one is an Altered States-inspired LSD trip scene, in which Red experiences a face-melting trip to the beyond, evolving into the herald of Galactus, a chalice of alien fury. A similar scene occurs in Cosmatos’ debut, in which, Dr. Barry Nyle submerges himself into a vat of black goo to achieve transcendence, but instead, returns with an otherworldly part of himself that feeds upon terror.

Another key parallel is towards the end of both movies in which both Nyle and Red drive against a murky backdrop and see a vision of another car speeding along with their own. While Nyle watches an altered version of himself and smirks, Red sees Mandy. Red, despite donning the mantle of a Jovan warrior and wreaking havoc on those who wronged him, is now caught in a limbo of mad despair, exuding a “cosmic darkness”, as twin moons hang in the sky and the car tumbles on into the abyss of the night.

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