After languishing in legal limbo for seven years, “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” is finally getting a well-deserved national release. It became available on VOD Friday, September 6. And it gets a national release in theaters October 11. If you like slasher films, check this one out as it has a sly knowingness to it. And lots of twists and turns that turn some of the genre conventions on its head.
The movie caused a sensation at the Toronto Film Festival in 2006, with the Weinstein Company paying 3.5 million to distribute the indie horror movie. But then a subsequent bad test screening caused Weinstein to reconsider a wide release for the picture. That made director Jonathan Levine and producer Keith Calder shop it around, eventually ending up with Senator Entertainment, a distribution company that promised a wide release for their girl, but when that company went belly up, poor ‘Mandy Lane’ was left on the shelf (http://bit.ly/8XMitC).
Then the VOD division of The Weinstein Company got into the mix and forged ahead with a release date. And now horror fans can reap the rewards after waiting all this time to see what the Toronto raves were all about. "All the Boys Love Mandy Lane" is a delightfully nasty little thriller that promises bloodshed and delivers it. But there’s more to it than just that. Writer Jacob Forman and director Levine give the film an intelligence that is usually missing from such fare. Their work here is sly and droll, commenting as much on teenage sexuality as the genre. All the boys do clamor for Mandy’s virginal glamour, but she’s too cool for school, as in a little too cold and aloof for her own good. Or theirs.
Amber Heard, an unknown at the time this was filmed, makes Mandy alluringly enigmatic. (She’s done very well in the horror genre, excelling in “John Carpenter’s The Ward” two years ago. http://exm.nr/SLw4mF ) We never quite know what’s going on in Mandy’s pretty little head. While the other teens surrounding her are vivid and noisy, she’s quiet and watchful. Mandy can be as disquieting and creepy as the violence going on around her. At times this movie seems steeped in the aura of “Friday the 13th", but it also has a lot of elements of a Camille Paglia lecture to it. It's about the scary erotic power that girls so often have over boys.
Forman and Levine love to take genre clichés and bend them ever-so-slightly to keep the audience guessing. We think we’ve seen this movie before what with yet another group of teenagers gathering out in the middle of the sticks for a weekend of sex, drugs and skinny-dipping in the local pond. But then the filmmakers start turning the expected on its ear. It turns out that the stone-faced, shotgun-toting farm hand in this one is actually a pretty cool guy. And the snotty teen queen bee turns out to be a lot more likable and resourceful than she first appeared. Even the sensitive jock surprises. He tells Mandy that he’s not at all like the other drooling boys trying to get in her pants, but then he makes an awful and awkward pass at her anyway. What a dork!
The movie is also exceedingly cunning in how it treats its time period. It seems both old and new. Cell phones show up, but then so do boom boxes. The clothing could be from the 80’s, or perhaps these teens have a taste for retro fashion. Even the grooming harkens back to a bygone era, with discussions of overgrown pubic hair. It’s like the filmmakers are saying, “You’ve seen this all before, right? Well, guess what? You haven’t seen it done quite our way.”
A few things don’t work as well as director Levine wanted them to. Occasionally he shows off some artsy-fartsy camera techniques that seem a bit more fartsy than artsy. And his work with actors is not as nuanced here as it was with the talent he directed in this past February's “Warm Bodies” (http://exm.nr/11z9lga). But those complaints are minor quibbles. He’s done a terrific job with 'Mandy Lane' and he's managed to make the all too familiar properties of the slasher sub-genre seem surprisingly fresh and alive.
“All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” continues a good run of late summer horror movies that have been bestowed upon horror junkies. “The Conjuring” was a superior shocker and one of the best demonic possession movies to come down the pike in some time (http://exm.nr/1azLSlg). And “You’re Next” proved to be a hoot and a holler (http://exm.nr/1deezcc). Whether you catch her now on VOD, or in a few weeks at the Cineplex, do spend some time with ‘Mandy Lane’. She’s worth all the trouble, even if that girl is all kinds of it you may not be ready for.