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March 14, 2010

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

2006, Dir. by Jonathan Levine.

Lost somewhere between the piles of big-budget remakes and independent hits-and-misses that make up American horror of the last half decade is Jonathan Levine's All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, a film which premiered in the US at the SXSW film festival in 2007...and has sat on a shelf ever since. There aren't many good reasons for this, considering most of the reviews from people who saw it through the festival circuit are positive, which is a lot more than can be said for most horror films produced since then. Dumped by The Weinstein Co. right before a planned summer release that year, it was picked up by German-based Senator Entertainment, who's held the flick
through another cancelled release in July of 2009. Now, as that festival closes up three whole years later, Mandy Lane still waits for distribution in its home country.

Thankfully, the world of region free blu-rays has been kind to the film, and I managed to get ahold of a copy of the film, which I've anticipated since reading about it years ago and seeing star Amber Heard start to appear in mainstream films, particularly the mindless fighting flick Never Back Down and her brief appearance in last year's hit Zombieland.

Just in case you couldn't guess from the title, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane tells the tale of Mandy Lane - an innocent, athletic, big-breasted, teenage blonde who is adored and envied by everyone, and has been "since the dawn of junior year". The boys want to be with her, and the girls want to be her. Unfortunately, she only has one friend: an outcast named Emmet who's one of those "weakling you can trust won't make a move" types. But after an accident that conveniently opens the film and builds the two characters' personas, it seems Mandy has moved on to trying to fit in with the upper-class of the high-school pecking order, and accepts an invitation to join five peers on a trip to a secluded ranch for the weekend. Anyone who's watched a horror movie knows where this will lead, but Mandy's too pure to have our wisdom.

The party starts with a bang. We're talking drinking and drugging, guns, swimming, snakes, and all sorts of sexual "jobs". But as night falls, the same thing that always happens on these secluded teen parties happens - someone starts killing folks.

Nothing in All the Boys Love Mandy Lane seems out of the ordinary to this point, from a horror standpoint. But what we begin to see as the film goes on is a distinct focus on building the character of Mandy Lane, and the character begins to entice us the same way she affects the people she's with in film. It becomes clear that there's a subdued "girl power" theme in the film early on, and Mandy Lane is drawn up as more of an ideal than a character for the viewer. Maybe it's just that the hyperbole of the other characters is contagious, or the way Heard carries herself with confidence and a disdain for immaturity, but Mandy Lane becomes the character the title suggests she should be.

As the film reaches the final act there are several revelations that shift the plot, and while I love the ideas put forth I did feel that some of the character development was left unexplained. It was easy for me to assume what the intentions were from my own standpoint, but the film never clearly states where it's gone as it rolls to a conclusion. Again, I like what happens as the plot wraps up, but I think it leaves a lot to interpretation that, if stated, could have made the film more powerful.

I don't think Mandy Lane is a reinvention of the slasher genre that is destined to be a horror classic (with a little tweaking, it could have been), but it's an original and fresh stab at the genre that's more than welcome. Thanks to Heard's lead performance and the intriguing presentation of the survivor girl story I'm more than happy to recommend All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, and I hope that, despite release and distribution issues, it someday gets the attention it deserves.


deadlydolls said...

I really love this movie and hate the fact that American distributors have given it such dire treatment. I'm not the biggest slasher fan, and I feel like this film knows what works about the genre and then takes it a little further with some character work I can't *really discuss without spoiling. Regardless, it's an extremely effective little film that simply worked for me. Glad you enjoyed it!

The Mike said...

Yeah, it was realllly hard to get into a review of this without getting all "spoiler alert!", because the final reel really does take the film to a different level. Hopefully someday it'll find its way to DVD or theaters and get the following it deserves.

deadlydolls said...

You actually did a very nice job of discussing the film without giving anything away. This was scheduled for a release this past August, but once again, nothing. I expect it will eventually be dumped on DVD and have a Trick 'R Treat-like celebration, but 4 years and counting is just ridiculous.

Unknown said...

This was a film I'd heard of but always thought was a teen rom/com ala American Pie. Now I really want to see it.

R.D. Penning said...

How did I never hear about this movie? I love Amber Heard! If anyone watches Criminal Minds, she played the hollywood actress that Reed made out with. She is awesome! This movie is going to the top of my list. Thanks Mike!