"IF ALL THE BOYS JUMPED OFF A BRIDGE, WOULD YOU DO THAT TOO?" (QUOTETH YOUR MOTHER)
After Mandy Lane (Amber Heard) experienced “the change” over the summer and has suddenly become hot, blonde, and unattainable, she has become all the rage. The girls want to be her and the guys want to be with her. When she is invited to a ranch for a weekend long party after the tragic death of a classmate, everyone around Mandy starts dying one by one.
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, much like the recent You’re Next and Cabin in the Woods, has had a long road in getting to the masses. Originally made in 2006, it made a run at the festival circuit, but after the failure of many other throwbacks to the 70s and 80s exploitation/slasher era, it had been unable to see a full theatrical release… until now. Was it worth the wait? Sure, why not?
This one is definitely an exercise in style over substance. Director Jonathan Levine (in his first full length, since followed by The Wackness, 50/50, and Warm Bodies) and his crew make a lot of interesting choices – much of the film has a washed out 70s feel, and the composition of many of Levine’s shots are far more artsy than would normally befit a slasher film. Also, while the film certainly objectifies women in a way that many will feel goes too far (Heard and the other girls spend much of the running time seductively running their fingers through their hair, prancing in their underwear, and sucking on fingers), the boys refreshingly don’t get out without some objectification of their own. Their obsession with sex seems to point at their own insecurities (true of any slasher film really, but this one seems to understand that). I was also pleasantly surprised that the film avoided the self-referencing, meta route that the Scream franchise has all but ensured that modern slasher must go down. Levine and writer Jacob Forman also seem to have a well placed finger on the pulse of what it’s like for a high-schooler in a situation of extreme growth.
But, other than that, much of it is rather ordinary. Boys and girls go to a secluded location, try to have sex, and are picked off by a killer. Interestingly, the killer in this one is revealed with quite a bit of running time left, but it doesn't particularly matter. Despite the requisite twist (that you may not see coming, but you won’t necessarily be taken aback by either), this follows the pretty standard slasher formula.
Acting is serviceable all around. Amber Heard plays the blonde bombshell well, but this seems to have been filmed just a few years before she herself actually became the amazingly unattainable girl that she eventually became in real life. At the time of this shoot, while she had the moves down, she was no more attractive than the other actresses who the script requires are unable to compete with her. Perhaps the best performance in the film (again, as if it matters) is given by Michael Welch as Mandy’s best friend Emmett. He doesn't have as much screen time as many of the others, but his portrayal of the outcast probably leaves the best impression.
Reviewing a movie like this, that has been sitting around largely unseen for years, makes for an interesting conundrum. Normally, a debut along the lines of Mandy Lane, while not wowing me, is certainly good enough for me to anticipate what the director does next. In this case, we've already seen the follow-ups, and he has, indeed, improved upon his craft. There’s nothing horribly wrong with this slasher flick, but there’s also nothing that will make it stand out from the crowd. Perhaps if it had played theatrically seven years ago, reactions may be different, but as it stands, Mandy Lane is worth a watch, especially if you haven’t yet seen 50/50 or Warm Bodies and want to watch Levine progress as a director.