Red: There she is boys, Mandy Lane. Untouched, pure.
For a film that sat on a shelf somewhere for 7 years, ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE sure does get a lot of grief from genre fans. If you weren’t lucky enough to catch this horror film when it premiered as part of the Midnight Madness program during TIFF back in 2006, then you’ve possibly built yourself up some sort of unrealistic expectation for it. This is the only explanation I have for just how negative the reviews of Jonathan Levine’s flick actually are. As to why it sat in limbo, well you can do that quick internet search yourself; it isn’t as interesting as you might think. If you ask me though, the wait was well worth it.
If this film had been released after its festival premiere, it would have quickly been ignored by the resurgent wave of torture porn and the overwhelming big studio remakes of classic slasher films we saw flooding our screens in the mid 2000’s. What ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE lacks in blood and gore, it makes up for with its incredibly insightful look at the teen horror genre, which is similar to another highly disregarded film, JENNIFER’S BODY. Hoards of horned up teenage males clamoured to see some Megan Fox naked in that film but were probably disappointed by Diablo Cody’s razor sharp dialogue and astute observations of teenagers and the media. Maybe films like these just take too many liberties in making fun of their intended audience, or maybe audiences just hate being challenged.
ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE explores many of the “dead teenager” tropes of the last 40 years, perhaps using Wes Craven’s SCREAM as a guidebook rather than a list of things to avoid. We have the obnoxious jock, the black guy, the stoner, the promiscuous female, the bitchy female, the mysterious yet handsome stranger and then of course Mandy Lane (Amber Heard) herself, all cooped up in a secluded ranch house for the weekend. Sound familiar? Ok, the plot doesn’t exactly come across as original initially, but the clever dialogue and a few unseen twists in the plot more than make up for it.
Mandy Lane is the teenage triple threat – sweet, smart and pretty. She is invited to a pool party one afternoon, and as swimming pools and drinking are often a terrible combination, someone ends up mysteriously dead. Fast forward a few months later and Mandy Lane, still that sweet girl, has now been invited by a different group of friends to a ranch for the weekend and she gladly accepts. Every boy on the trip is expecting he will be the one to hook up with Mandy, as teenage boys often do. The appearance of a ranch hand (Anson Mount) throws a wrench in their plans though and the boys try to up their game to steal back the attention of all the girls. Drinking and drugs follow, and of course the murders aren’t too far behind. It seems obvious who the killer is from the get go, and a little more than half way through, suspicions are confirmed. But don’t let that sway you, because the final act serves up an awesome twist.
Levine takes horror conventions and adds in observations about Adderall snorting teenagers, with the entitled attitudes and selfish behaviours that we are all familiar with already, and it is just as relevant now as it was back in 2006. Unlike other horror films of the mid-2000’s, ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE doesn’t assault its audience with more blood than necessary, and this is both a blessing and a curse. I love blood and gore as much as the next horror fan, and I was disappointed with just how little there is through most of the movie, and that is largely due to an annoying camera technique that got on my nerves more than once. However, it is also refreshing to see a horror movie that doesn’t need to rely on the red stuff to keep our attention. Whatever this says about me though, I still wanted a little more.
Since the premiere of ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE, Levine has gone on to direct the tearjerker, 50/50, and the modern day zombie version of “Romeo and Juliet”, WARM BODIES, so he has been pretty busy building up his portfolio. Seven years is a long time to wait for a movie to see a release, and I find it a shame that it was met with such negative reviews by people who were either expecting it to be something that it wasn’t, or just didn’t appreciate (or just didn’t catch on to) its sly social commentary. It’s unfortunate that people will most likely skim through the plethora of negative reviews and dismiss this film as simply just another teenage horror movie and not the clever piece it actually is. If you were disappointed by the lack of Megan Fox boob shots in JENNIFER’S BODY, then you will probably be equally disappointed with the brains in this one. If you do choose to give it a chance though, I’m excited for you, because it is everything a good horror movie should be, a few good scares and something to make us think along the way.