If you’ve never seen a movie where Nic Cage was supposed to be a hot leading man and thought…”What? Wait, really?” then you’ve probably never seen NATIONAL TREASURE (2004), GONE IN 60 SECONDS (2000), MATCHSTICK MEN (2003), or those awful GHOST RIDER movies. Cage is a good actor and has the awards and filmography to prove it, but there’s no denying he’s really fucking weird.
When I saw him in wacky comedy slasher MOM AND DAD (2017) I had a life-altering horror epiphany:
Cage is the perfect horror star and he should never do anything else.
OK, I hear you all plaintively screaming, “but he was good in LEAVING LAS VEGAS!” And yes, true. I cannot disagree with all the major award-bestowing organizations. I also hear you enraged horror fans weeping and gnashing your teeth, pleading, “but what about WICKER MAN????” Fine. THE WICKER MAN (2006) was a travesty. But it wasn’t Cage’s fault. Two reasons:
- if you’ve ever seen the 1973 WICKER MAN (Do it. Now. Go!) you know it’s an idyllic horror romp. Cage could be decent in a remake that resembles the original, but the actual remake was a complete reimagining. It tries to be gritty and scary but it’s just not, and we can’t blame one guy for all the failings of a director, a writer, and a whole artistic team.
- Even in a bad movie Nic Cage can be good, but in WICKER MAN he was mis-cast. He can’t be the straight-laced good-guy cop! He’s a total fucking nutball with an emotional range as big as Idina Menzel’s vocal range and the energy of a French Bulldog on crack. He was wasted in WICKER MAN! Which brings me to my main issue with 90% of all his movies:
They waste his skills!
Nobody can freak out like Nic Cage. His highs are the highest, his lows are the lowest, his vocal tics and facial expressions are immense and the whole time he’s still a person. That’s all somehow motivated from a real emotional place. And that kind of weirdness is a) not especially sexy in a leading man kind of way and b) so incredibly sexy in the right kind of horror!
In MOM AND DAD his insanity is justified by the mind-altering drug that’s made all parents wanna do murder, but he expertly ties that insanity back to the human motivations of his frustrating suburban life. The tension between his bored emasculation and his pool-table-destroying rage CRACKLES and SLAPS.
COLOR OUT OF SPACE (2019) is a very bad movie. It’s an interpretation of Lovecraft that doesn’t know how to transition from page to screen and there are lengthy CGI sequences that are deeply un-scary. The effects are bad and honestly this story probably shouldn’t be filmed anyway since it’s about a color humans have never seen before and can’t describe. In this film they use magenta. Not exactly mind-blowing. NEVERTHELESS. Cage is magnificent. His descent into color-induced madness is both credible and absurd. He can’t save the film but he does make it watchable and that is some rare greatness.
MANDY (2017) is the film Cage should’ve won a (second) Oscar for, if partially animated psychedelic grindhouse flicks ever won Oscars. This movie fridge’s it’s female protagonist and namesake in the first forty minutes and I still liked it. Fridging is bullshit but Nic Cage is eternal. MANDY’s over-the-top Clive Barker-esqe aesthetic and vulnerable human moments feel kind of like someone created a movie purely as a visual representation of this man’s range. He’s awkward and confused one minute, and the next he’s stumbling, half-horrified half-ecstatic, through a murder-fest fueled by (you guessed it) mind-altering psychedelic drugs. Everyone go watch this movie immediately. It’s on Shudder. It’s worth the whole month’s subscription to watch just this one movie.
Because. of Nicolas. Cage.
Cage has done even more horror than this and I’ll get to it eventually. For now, ladies and gentlemen of the jury: I rest my case.
Do you have opinions about Horror God Nic Cage? Share them in the comments! Especially if you think I’m right, because I am!