Written by J. Weagle
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane has somewhat of an interesting history, in that not only is it Amber Heard’s first staring role, it was also filmed way back in 2006 and released six years later. Directed by Jonathan Levine who would go on to direct the zombie love story Warm Bodies, as well as the cancer comedy 50/50, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane marks his directorial debut. The film follows a group of teenagers who invite the shy, innocent, but extremely beautiful girl named Mandy Lane to spend a weekend at a ranch house where they intend to party, but are targeted by a stalker who is after her. It’s an interesting premise, and one that quickly caught my attention as it looked to possibly do something interesting with the slasher genre, and I’m happy to say that despite some flaws it does manage to be quite interesting.
As I said the film was originally filmed back in 2006 on a shoe string budget of less than a million dollars. It did go on to premiere at a few notable festivals including TiFF, and South by Southwest, and even went on to receive a UK theatrical release. The Weinstein Company purchased the film during one of those festivals but held onto it until now, giving it a VOD (video on demand) release just this month, with a limited theatrical release in North America set for next month. Like I said, an interesting history. What’s even more bizarre is that the movie is pretty damn fantastic, and I’m still not quite sure why the company decided to sit on this one for so long.
With that nonsense out of the way, let’s talk about the movie. Every high school has that girl that everyone wanted – you know that girl who turns heads by simply walking down the hallway, that her classmates fantasize about each and every night. She wasn’t conceded, talked to preps, jocks, and geeks alike treating them with the same amount of respect. She was mature for her age, civil with just the right amount of sexy. Everyone knew her, but at the same time didn’t actually know her. That girl is Mandy Lane played by Amber Heard (good casting).
As the film starts we are introduced to her via a jock in a truck inviting her to a pool party. She agrees, and brings her friend Emmet (yes, a guy) to the party with her. He’s reluctant to, and it’s clear why as he is very noticeably out of his element surrounded by what appears to be the entire football team and some pretty cheerleaders. It’s at this party that a fight ensues between Emmet and the golden haired jock that invited them. Emmet pouts on the roof for the remainder of the party, while the golden boy joins him to settle their differences. They talk it out, and golden boy just wants what every guy at that party wants, to be with Mandy, lovely, lovely Mandy. Emmet convinces the golden boy that jumping off the roof into the pool will impress her. He’s been drinking – they’ve all been drinking and it’s a pretty risky jump. Needless to say he does, because he knows Mandy is watching, and he breaks his skull off the corner of the pool and dies.
Quite an opening, and right away we know that we are in for something a little different than your standard teen horror romp. I’ll admit I went in expecting something a little more along the lines of ‘I Know what You Did Last Summer’, and got something completely the opposite. The main separation being that this movie is much smarter, and although it deals with horny teenage boys, and slutty girls it has a sense of maturity about it. I contribute this to the way in which it was filmed. Right down to the dusty setting of the endless farm land that resembles the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, to the moody dark lighting that pays its homage to the early Friday the 13th films. Even some of the camera shots make it look as though the film was made in the late seventies or early eighties.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect is how quickly the movie reveals the murderer. It’s not much of a shock for anyone who is familiar with how these movies play out, and all signs point to one person despite the film trying its best to throw you off now and than. But the killers identity isn’t that important – well it is, but the real twist is waiting near the end which I will say no more about for those wanting to watch this for themselves. Even more interesting is that the big reveal near the end isn’t the most fascinating piece of the story – it’s the motivation that places this film above most like it.
The film makes or breaks on Amber Heard who had the most difficult job of the entire cast. While the other characters play out in traditional high school stereotype fashion (the jock, the stoner, the whore, the girl with self image issues, etc) Mandy doesn’t fit in a single category. She plays the part subtlety and I don’t really think the performance would have worked any other way. She’s a strong female lead, and to mirror what I said in my review of The Ward, this girl needs to be in more horror films.
It’s not often that a movie comes along that really catches my attention, a movie I hear about that I need to watch anyway I can. The last time I can remember that happening was when I first read an article for The House of the Devil – and while that film is better, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is one of the best genre films I’ve seen in awhile. I went into it wanting to like, I liked the premise, I like Amber Heard, and everything else seemed to be in place for a classic. Sometimes what we want and what we get are two different things, and in the case of Mandy Lane that is true, but for a different reason. I wanted a good quality film, and I got that. But, it was in no way the movie I was expecting, it was smarter, bloodier, and a whole lot more thought provoking than I could have ever imagined.