Tag Archives: Nicolas Cage

Fright Club: Best Nicolas Cage Horror Movies

We love him. You love him. Once considered one of the greatest actors of his generation, later deemed a nut job with unusual spending habits who would take any role, Nicolas Cage has finally set the debate to rest. He is obviously both.

Whether his masterpiece performances—Raising Arizona, Moonstruck, Wild at Heart, Leaving Las Vegas, Adaptation, Pig—or his many other great, good, mediocre and outright terrible films, Cage is a guy you can’t take your eyes off of. But what are his best horror films? Let’s dig in.

5. Renfield (2023)

They totally made a movie with a very saucy Nic Cage as Dracula. And a saucy Nic Cage is the best Nic Cage.

There’s at least one bloody toe in waters that send up rom-coms, satirize narcissistic relationships and homage a classic horror character while it’s also modernizing the themes that built him.

But experiencing Count Nicula alone is worth it. Plus, Nicholas Hoult is perfect as the put-upon sad boy with access to anti-hero superpowers and Awkwafina can wring plenty of humor from simply telling a guy named Kyle to F-off.

Renfield might be bloodier than you expect, but it’s just as much fun as you’re hoping for. Call it bloody good fun.

4. Grindhouse (2007)

Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez deserved more eyeballs when they released their giddy mash note to low rent B-horror features. Both films were great, but what was really inspired were the fake trailers they wedged between the two features.

One of the best trailers, and possibly the fest film Rob Zombie ever made, was this gem that looks like a realistic evolution of an old Sybil Danning film. (Danning herself co-stars as one of the She-Devils of Belzac). The chef’s kiss is Cage, cackling maniacally over the end of the clip as Fu Manchu.

3. Mom and Dad (2017)

I brought you into this world, I can take you out of it.

It’s a joke, of course, an idle threat. Right?

Maybe so, but deep down, it does speak to the unspeakable tumult of emotions and desires that come with parenting. Wisely, a humorous tumult is exactly the approach writer/director Brian Taylor  brings to his horror comedy Mom and Dad.

So why do you want to see it? Because of the unhinged Nicolas Cage. Not just any Nic Cage—the kind who can convincingly sing the Hokey Pokey while demolishing furniture with a sledge hammer.

This is one of those Nic Cage roles: Face/Off meets Wild at Heart meets Vampire’s Kiss. He’s weird, he’s explosive and he is clearly enjoying himself.

2. Vampire’s Kiss (1988)

Sure, Nicolas Cage is a whore, a has-been, and his wigs embarrass us all. But back before The Rock (the film that turned him), Cage was always willing to behave in a strangely effeminate manner, and perhaps even eat a bug. He made some great movies that way.

Peter Lowe (pronounced with such relish by Cage) believes he’s been bitten by a vampire (Jennifer Beals) during a one night stand. It turns out, he’s actually just insane. The bite becomes his excuse to indulge his self-obsessed, soulless, predatory nature for the balance of the running time.

Cage gives a masterful comic performance in Vampire’s Kiss as a narcissistic literary editor who descends into madness. The actor is hilarious, demented, his physical performance outstanding. The way he uses his gangly mess of limbs and hulking shoulders inspires darkly, campy comic awe. And the plastic teeth are awesome.

Peter may believe he abuses his wholesome editorial assistant Alva (Maria Conchita Alonso) with sinister panache because he’s slowly turning into a demon, but we know better.

1. Mandy (2018)

Writer/director Panos Cosmatos’s hallucinogenic fever dream of social, political and pop-culture subtexts layered with good old, blood-soaked revenge, Mandy throws enough visionary strangeness on the screen to dwarf even Nicolas Cage in full freakout mode.

Not just Nic, either. Andrea Riseborough, cannibal bikers on LSD, The Chemist, and a religious sex cult led by a terrible folk singer. Plus a sword, an axe, a lot of blood, and did I mention the LSD?

Like Cosmatos’s 2010 debut Beyond the Black RainbowMandy is both formally daring and wildly borrowed. While Black Rainbow, also set in 1983, shines with the antiseptic aesthetic of Cronenberg or Kubrick, Mandy feels more like something snatched from a Dio album cover.

Night Crawlers

Arcadian

by George Wolf

Nicolas Cage has become such a mythic figure in film culture that each new outing tends to bring questions.

Is this the unhinged “rage in the Cage?” Arthouse Cage? Mass appeal or self effacing Cage?

You can file Arcadian under “understated Cage leading a YA leaning creature feature.”

He stars as Paul, who’s living in a remote farmhouse with his twin teenage sons in a dystopian future. By day, the men follow a careful routine of security and sustenance. Because at night, there are visitors that really want to come in.

The exact details of the invasion are a little sketchy, but never elusive enough to derail our interest in the family’s survival.

Thomas (Maxwell Jenkins) is the impulsive, romantic brother, and his visits with Charlotte (Sadie Soverall) at the farm down the road have been keeping Thomas out dangerously late. His twin Joseph (Jaeden Martell) is the introspective thinker. Joseph has been studying patterns of the nightly attacks and believes the creatures have been testing, and planning.

He’s right.

Director Benjamin Brewer isn’t trying to reinvent anything here. He teams with producer-turned-screenwriter Michael Nilon for an unassuming horror thriller than benefits greatly from an impressive cast and a frightening creature design.

I don’t want to give anything away, but these bad boys have one specific trait that will get your attention right quick.

These themes aren’t new. There will be peril, bloodshed, and sacrifice as the creatures get smarter and the young begin to take on responsibilities of adulthood and cherish the things that matter. But thankfully, that familiarity doesn’t breed pandering. Brewer is also able to land some solid thrills, while the three younger co-stars provide impressive support for Cage’s elder statesman grace.

Ultimately, Arcadian doesn’t feel that much like a stereotypical “Nicolas Cage movie.” And the film is better for it.

Runnin’ Down a Dream

Dream Scenario

by Hope Madden

Why does the zebra look the way it does? Can anyone think of a benefit to that pattern? Those stripes help zebras blend into the group, go unnoticed. And when no one notices you, you’re safe.

But wouldn’t everyone rather feel special?

Paul Matthews (Nicolas Cage) would. Too bad there is nothing particularly special about him. He’s a tenured professor, but not a researcher. He wants to write a book, just hasn’t actually written anything yet. And then, somehow, suddenly, everyone is dreaming about him.

Well, the dream is not about Paul, per se. But there he is, anyway, standing there and not participating.

Writer/director Kristoffer Borgli (Sick of Myself) once again analyzes and satirizes the cultural obsession with attention. But by moving the focus to a middle-aged, relatively ordinary man, Borgli removes the wag of the finger toward the young and their vacuous nature. Instead, Dream Scenario becomes an unnervingly accurate portrayal of our whole cultural attention span.

This is absurdist horror comedy at its best, leaning toward Charlie Kaufman’s take on humanity. That, of course, makes Cage an apt choice for the lead. Cage delivered two magnificent comedic performances in the Kaufman-penned Adaptation, garnering an Oscar nomination. In that film he played a neurotic intellectual and an oblivious dufus. In a way, he does that here, too.

Every half dozen films or so, Nic Cage reminds us of his singular talent. Pig (2021) again proved his humbling dramatic power. Dream Scenario (like Adaptation) recalls his nimble comedic skill.

Equally nimble is Borgli’s writing, coloring the all-too-real horror of celebrity with running jokes about ants, zebras and the Talking Heads. None of the richness in the script is lost on Cage or a game ensemble –including Julianne Nicholson, Michael Cera and Tim Meadows – mainly playing it straight so Cage can melt down gloriously.

The director slides so easily through tonal shifts that even one sincere, romantic moment feels at home. As does the film’s theme: none of this is real.

Buffalo Stance

Butcher’s Crossing

by Hope Madden

Nicolas Cage has done the wild West before. Of course, with 116 acting credits, he’s done most everything before. But he’s done this recently ­– earlier this year in The Old Way, and a couple of years back in Prisoners of the Ghostland. What’s new with Butcher’s Crossing?

Cage plays Miller, a buffalo hunter. He works for himself. And he knows the stragglers with their paper thin hides around these parts ain’t nothing compared to the majestic creatures he’s seen in the thousands over in Colorado territory. If only somebody’d pony up the dough, he could put together a hunting party and bring in the biggest haul this town’s ever seen.

Well, sir, that’s just what young Will Andrews (Fred Hechinger) wants to hear. He dropped out of Harvard in search of adventure, and this looks to be that.

Co-writer/director Gabe Polsky adapts John Williams’s gorgeous 1960 novel of bitter truth and American mythology. Visually striking, the film’s untamed beauty belies its meager budget. Creating an atmosphere with limited means is an instinct Polsky has shown since his impressive feature debut, Motel Life.

Miller, Will, the hyper-religious Charlie (Xander Berkeley) and the scoundrel Fred (Jeremy Bobb) head into the Rockies in search of buffalo. What they find, along with the beasts, is themselves, and that is not pretty.

Butcher’s Crossing becomes a descent into madness film. This should be where Cage excels. Madness is essentially his brand. The character isn’t written well enough to leave an impression and Polsky’s storytelling is too tight to let the veteran madman open up. Lunacy never materializes.

Hechinger, memorably naïve in News of the World, delivers well enough as innocence turned sour. Both Bobb and Paul Raci, as the bitter entrepreneur who warned the men against the hunt, add a bit of color to the story.

Butcher’s Crossing is an ugly story of greed. It’s an ugly story of America. The shots of bison carcasses make an impression – the photography throughout is impressive, but this sickening image is particularly something. Unfortunately, Polsky’s script and cast can’t quite match the visual clarity he gives the tale.

Bloody Good

Renfield

by Hope Madden and George Wolf

So, two Robot Chicken writers and the guy who directed The Lego Batman Movie got together and said, I bet they’d let us make a movie if we could get Nic Cage to play Dracula.

I mean, maybe it didn’t go down like that, but it could have and if it did, it worked. They totally made a movie with a very saucy Nic Cage as Dracula. And a saucy Nic Cage is the best Nic Cage.

Through inspired cinematic homages, we’re whooshed through a little backstory. Robert Montague Renfield (Nicholas Hoult – who played Cage’s son in Gore Verbinski’s 2005 dramedy The Weather Man) is an ambitious real estate agent who sells his soul to Dracula. Fast forward 150 years or so and he’s grown weary of the co-dependent relationship.

The blood sucker’s insatiable appetite means that his reluctant manservant is forever finding a new place for them to lay low. Right now, it’s New Orleans, where an angry cop (Awkwafina) is fighting a losing battle with a corrupt city.

But enough about the story. Honestly, if you’re here for the story, you’ve come to the wrong place. Not that co-writers Ryan Ridley and Robert Kirkman do a poor job. They do a fine job of serving Cage opportunities to ham it up, while director Chris McKay wows with Story of Ricky levels of carnage, except here it’s intentionally funny.

And the blood-splatter here is much more accomplished then Ricky, as it’s woven through a spicy gumbo of action set pieces that mix Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead with a dash of Matrix. But as fun as this all often is, the film never fully commits to any of its multiple directions.

There’s at least one bloody toe in waters that send up rom-coms, satirize narcissistic relationships and homage a classic horror character while it’s also modernizing the themes that built him.

But experiencing Count Nicula alone is worth it. Plus, Hoult is perfect as the put-upon sad boy with access to anti-hero superpowers and Awkwafina can wring plenty of humor from simply telling a guy named Kyle to F-off.

Renfield might be bloodier than you expect, but it’s just as much fun as you’re hoping for. Call it bloody good fun.

Daughters Out, Guns Out

The Old Way

by George Wolf

Nic Cage brings a Brimley-approved mustache and an itchy trigger finger to the The Old Way as Colton Briggs, meanest lowdown killer the Wild West ever saw.

But after an opening standoff that leaves plenty men dead and one young eyewitness without a father, director Brett Donowho jumps ahead twenty years, when the ‘stache is gone and…

…And a good woman has tamed this outlaw into a family man?

That’s right. Colton and his wife Ruth (Kerry Knuppe) run the Briggs Mercantile, while their pensive daughter Brooke (Ryan Kiera Armstrong from American Horror Story and last year’s Firestarter) looks for ways to challenge her smarts and curiosity.

So while Carl W. Lucas’s script scrapes together just enough reason for Colton to take a turn walking Brooke to school…

…Some gunslingers with an old score to settle pay a call to Mrs. Briggs, giving Mr. Briggs a mighty good reason to get out his guns and seek vengeance?

Right again. And though Ruth tells James McAllister (Noah Le Gros) and his crew that “you boys have woke up the devil!”, a face-to-face showdown is just what McAllister is after.

Obviously, nothing here is breaking any ground in the genre, as the real draw is Cage playing a grizzled killer in the Old West. He’s fine, just don’t expect any unhinged Caginess. Briggs is an always-restrained coil of intensity, as Donowho and Lucas instead try to craft some emotional heft from a father teaching his daughter the way of the gun.

Armstrong is clearly a talent, but both she and Cage are up against a script that leans too heavily on stilted, explanatory dialog and cliched exclamations (“You’re bringin’ Hell down on us, Jimmy!”). We’re told too much about who these people are without seeing enough to really care about them.

And by the time that showdown in the middle of a dusty trail finally plays out, what we do see doesn’t make for a memorable payoff.

It’s Nic Cage in a Western, so there are possibilities here. But The Old Way is too content to fall back on the old tropes to blaze anything at all.

Pleased to Meet Me

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

by George Wolf

It’s not just that it’s the role he was born to play. It’s also that it feels like precisely the right moment for him to be playing it, as if the cosmos themselves are aligning to deliver us some rockin’ good news.

How good? Well, for starters, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent gives him about a minute and a half just to name check himself as “Nic f’innnnnnnnnnggggggggow!WoahCage!”

It’s a film that nails a joyously off the rails tone early and often, as Nic goes after the role of a lifetime with a public rage reading for David Gordon Green, but comes up short. The letdown has Nic considering walking away from the business altogether, until his agent (Neil Patrick Harris) calls with an attention-getting offer.

Attend one birthday party for a superfan, collect one million dollars.

So it’s off to Spain and the lavish compound of Javi (Pedro Pascal), where Nic is blindsided by two federal agents (Tiffany Haddish, Ike Barinholtz) staking out the place. Seems Javi is actually a drug kingpin who’s holding a young girl hostage in an effort to influence an upcoming election.

Sounds funny, right?

Not really. Which makes it even more of a kick when there’s no defense against giving in to the gleefully meta madness.

Director and co-writer Tom Gormican (That Awkward Moment) taps into the cult of Cage by both exploiting the myth and honoring how it took root. There are multiple, non-judgemental callbacks to the Cage filmography, while the young Nic (via hit or miss de-aging) drops in to remind his older self just who the F they are!

And while we’re loving all manner of Cage, here comes Pedro! More natural and endearing than he’s ever been, Pascal starts by channeling the fan in all of us, and then deftly becomes the film’s surprising heart. Yes, there are nods to Hollywood pretension, but they’re never self-serving, and the film is more than content to lean all the way in to a madcap adventure buddy comedy spoof.

Would it shock anyone if we eventually get a tell-all book revealing that Cage actually was a CIA operative? Or that he won Employee of Every Month? Nope, and Massive Talent is a fun, funny salute to a guy who’s improved a host of movies by never forgetting who he is.

WoahCage!

Going Like a Ghostland

Prisoners of the Ghostland

by Hope Madden

Nicolas Cage referred to Sion Sono’s Prisoners of the Ghostland as possibly the wildest film he’s ever been in.

Wilder than Wild at Heart?

Wilder than Mandy?

Wilder than – I mean, it’s a long list. We’re talking about Nicolas Cage here. But Sono (Suicide Club, Antiporno, Tokyo Vampire Hotel, Why Don’t You Play in Hell, among others) is no slouch in the wild department. So, it would seem that he and Cage make a suitable match.

Sono’s tale pits dastardly bank thief and all around nogoodnik Hero (Cage) against the clock, testicular bombs, and marauding trucker ghosts. Why? To return The Mayor’s (Bill Moseley) beloved granddaughter Bernice (Sofia Boutella) back to him.

If that sounds simple enough —and it probably does not— the film’s even more unusual than the synopsis suggests. Prisoners of the Ghostland delivers a samurai cyberpunk musical Western dystopian neo-noir with flourishes reminiscent of Mad Max and Mulan Rouge.

I wish that mashup worked better.

The Mayor rules Samurai Town, a garish din of debauchery, color and indulgence. Here Sono delivers bold and bizarre visuals. He runs with the idea that the samurai and the cowboy are essentially, cinematically, the same beast.

Bernice is held in Ghostland, all ash and cinder populated as much by mannequins as humans. Haunting imagery here as well, though less of it unique, marrying Western to dystopic fantasy. Plus the Greek chorus.

Compared to Sono’s madcap antics, Cage is almost subdued. Does he ride naked on a child’s bike? Grapple with toxic mutant monsters? Sing? He does! It’s just that Sono’s vision is wilder still.

The filmmaker’s aesthetic is jarring, disjointed, overwhelming, frenetic, sometimes stupid, other times glorious, and never less than mad. The fact that he tries to tie it all together neatly at the end may be Prisoners of the Ghostland’s biggest drawback.

The underlying story is of trafficked women taking control of their lives and bodies, though the fact that Boutella is essentially voiceless and in need of saving speaks louder about the film’s themes. She does a solid job in a thankless role, as does everyone in the densely populated ensemble.

It’s bananas It doesn’t entirely work – sometimes it doesn’t work at all — but it is a bold mess that commands attention.

That’ll Do

Pig

by Hope Madden

A quick plot synopsis of co-writer/director Michael Sarnoski’s Pig suggests a very specific image. Nicolas Cage plays a hermetic truffle hunter whose beloved pig is kidnapped. He uses his particular set of skills to find her.

You are almost undoubtedly thinking this is John Wick, swapping Cage for Keanu and a pig for a puppy.

Nope.

This touching film—a tale of love, loss, authenticity and a good meal— is essentially the anti-John Wick. And we are better for it.

Cage’s legacy will rightfully be of an unhinged and singular talent—and also an actor who never turns down a gig. But every decade or so the stars align and Cage gets to stretch, he gets to underact. He hasn’t delivered as nuanced or thoughtful a performance since David Gordon Green’s 2013 film Joe.

Lurking, silent and disheveled, his character hitches a ride with the only soul who contacts him regularly, Amir (Alex Wolff, Hereditary), the slick wholesaler who takes his truffles off his hands each Wednesday.

As the two climb the ladder of potential kidnappers, from other outdoorsy truffle hunters to middlemen to chefs and higher still, Sarnoski mimics the beats of a vengeance thriller like John Wick or Taken, but he does this only to subvert expectations. It turns out, when your only real goal is to retrieve something beloved and lost to you, bloodshed doesn’t rank high in your thoughts.

A uniformly strong supporting cast and their priceless reactions to Cage’s vagabond presence not only illuminate the pretension Sarnoski hopes to call attention to in Portland’s high-end restaurant culture. They give the actor the chance to react.

Cage is almost always the center of attention in every film. It’s tough to look away from him because you’re afraid you’ll miss some insane grimace or wild gesture, but also because filmmakers love him and never pull away. Sarnoski asks you to wait for it. He gives Cage time to pause, breathe, and deliver his most authentic performance in ages.

I guarantee the folks to my left at this screening were here for Cage Uncaged! ™ Hopefully they appreciated the fact that they didn’t get it.

Search for Tomorrow

The Croods: A New Age

by George Wolf

At least two things have happened since we met The Croods seven years ago. One, we’ve forgotten about the Croods, and two, Dreamworks has plotted their return.

A New Age gets the caveman clan back together with some talented new voices and a hipper approach for a sequel that easily ups the fun factor from part one.

The orphaned Guy (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) has become part of pack Crood, which is fine with everyone except papa Grug (Nicolas Cage), who isn’t wild about the teen hormones raging between Guy and Eep (Emma Stone).

The nomadic gang is continuing their search for the elusive “tomorrow” when they stumble onto the Stone Age paradise of Phil and Hope Betterman (Peter Dinklage and Leslie Mann, both priceless). The Betterman’s lifestyle puts the “New Age” in this tale, and they hatch a plan to send the barbaric Croods on their way while keeping Guy for their daughter Dawn (Kelly Marie Tran).

But a funny thing happens along the way. Check that, many things happen, and plenty of them funny, in a film that nearly gets derailed by the sheer number of characters and convolutions it throws at us.

The new writing team of Kevin Hageman, Dan Hageman and Paul Fisher keeps the adventure consistently madcap with some frequent LOLs (those Punch Monkeys are a riot) and even topical lessons on conservation, individuality and girl power.

Or maybe that should read Granny Power, since it is Gran’s (Cloris Leachman) warrior past that inspires the ladies to don facepaint, take nicknames and crank up a theme song from Haim as they take a stand against some imposing marauders.

Director Joel Crawford – an animation vet – keeps his feature debut fast moving and stylish, drawing performances from his talented cast (which also includes Catherine Keener and Clark Duke) that consistently remind you how important the “acting” can be in voice acting.

By the time Tenacious D drops in to see what condition the Partridge Family’s “I Think I Love You” is in, the whole affair starts to feel like some sort of animated head trip.

Yeah, a little sharper focus wouldn’t hurt, but A New Age delivers the good time you forgot to remember to wonder where it’s been.