All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (Movie Review)
Everyone knows someone like Mandy Lane. The girl who, once awkward and unattractive, comes into the first day of school having gone through a transformation. Walking through the hall as if in slow motion, you can practically hear the mating calls given off from every male in the school, and in today's day in age, even some of the females. The rest of her high school career is spent riding the line, between her new found attention and popularity, and her life long friends left in the dust.
In the vaguest of senses, that's how "All the Boys Love Mandy Lane" starts out. It's a genius premise from the perspective of someone writing a horror film, because as a member of the predominantly male audience for genre films, you find yourself becoming enamored with Mandy Lane yourself, or in this case, the actress playing her, Amber Heard. It's this pubescent danger and excitement that runs through the entire picture, as we watch the young and seemingly pure Mandy Lane dodge advances and avoid sexual situations at every corner. In fact, there's almost as much tension in this film regarding whether or not Mandy will be raped by one of her suitors, as there is concerning who will die next.
Which of course, is the other point of the film. After a shocking accident in the opening scene, Mandy has become estranged from her life long male best friend, Emmet. Leaving Emmet behind for a spot in the cool crowd, we fast forward about 9 months to the end of the school year. Mandy gets invited out to one of the "in" crowd's ranch's for an end of the year bash, and since she has survived the entire year without being deflowered, quickly becomes the target for the varying degrees of asshole that surround her.
And here's the main crux of "Mandy Lane." Much of your enjoyment will hinge on your tolerance for asshole teenage characters. You see, the group of cretins populating Mandy's new crowd are not meant to be liked. They consist of a jock, a stoner, a bad boy, and two of the meanest, sluttiest high school girl cliches ever committed to celluloid. The point, in drawing them as such vapid stereotypes, is to draw a distinct line in the sand between them and Mandy. Although she is enjoying her new found popularity, there is a thread throughout the film dictating that Mandy is "different".
Since the marketing made it clear that the film is a slasher, it's no surprise when people start dropping like flies at the party. From the setting alone, a ranch somewhere in the American South, it's clear from the start that director Jonathan Levine is trying to draw parallels to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The influences are quite clear here. There is a strong streak of 1980's slasher feel to the film, but when the credits roll after the doozy of a twist ending, the technicolor freeze frames and Giallo-esque song betray Levine's true inspirations, 70's Terror films. Long drawn out zooms, washed out frames, and brutal violence all contribute to the atmosphere, which is mostly on point for what it appears he was trying to accomplish.
For Americans in particular, the film may evoke strong feelings on the basis of it's simliarities to the Columbine like incidents that have plagued our high schools for the last 10 years. I remember being in 11th grade when the incident in Littleton Colorado happened, and the uncomfortable feeling I had walking through the halls the next day came flooding back at certain points throughout Lane. For some, depending on your heritage and/or age, this may not be an issue, but I would be surprised if I wasn't the first person to connect this film to those incidents. When you're sitting there rooting for the death of certain characters with bloodlust in your voice, sit back and wonder if the director isn't pulling your strings just a bit.
"Mandy Lane" is a film that comes with conditions. In other words, IF you can look past the thin characterizations of Mandy's classmates long enough to see that they're drawn like that on purpose, you will enjoy the film. And IF you're on board with the film long enough to be down for the twist ending, you will be rewarded handsomely.
All that said, it's almost certainly going to suffer from the hype it has enjoyed on US shores. Ever shifting release dates, a killer ad campaign, and decent word of mouth have all served to over hype the film to the American horror audience. After viewing it, it comes as no surprise that a wide theatrical release has evaded "Mandy Lane". It's a down and dirty R rated slasher about teenagers, therefore it's main target audience wouldn't even be able to go out and see it.
Plus, it's important to remember that it was shot for a paltry 750,000$, which would barely cover the catering on most big horror releases these days. Taking that into consideration, it's highly impressive what Jonathan Levine was able to accomplish with so little, especially considering the fact that "Mandy Lane" rarely hints at it's meager budget. For older fans, your mileage on "Lane" may vary, but if you have nostalgia for the films that inspired it, and you're able to separate yourself from the hype, you will definitely enjoy the ride.