Review: All The Boys Love Mandy Lane
PLOT: Isolated at a ranch, a group of partying teens begin to get killed off one by one.
REVIEW: I would not have liked ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE had I seen it seven years ago, when it was originally supposed to come out. I state this only to underline the fact that my negative reaction to the horror film, directed by Jonathan Levine (who has since directed such titles as THE WACKNESS and WARM BODIES), is not the result of disappointment after an insanely long wait; it’s just not a strong piece of work. As a slasher movie, it’s unimaginative; as a subversion of slasher movies, it has little new to add. And as it pats itself on the back at the end for seemingly putting one over on the audience, it becomes obvious that a smugness has presided over the entire endeavor.
The film’s best section is its prologue, a fairly engaging pastiche of high school movie cliches involving dudes and chicks at a small town high school. The center of the attention is Mandy Lane (Amber Heard) a shy beauty who is the object of every guy with a boner’s attention. Mandy is a good girl and doesn’t put out, which makes her all the more desirable. The desperation to secure her affection is at such a fever pitch that one fellow jumps off a roof at a house party in a truly ill-advised attempt to impress her and kills himself (he was aiming for the pool). To be fair, he isn’t completely to blame for this dumb action; the school’s punching bag Emmet (Michael Welch) goaded him into it, knowing it would end in certain doom. Emmet has a thing for Mandy too, naturally.
After this tragedy, we skip ahead nine months. Everybody still loves Mandy Lane, and more than a couple of them intend to get in her pants during a weekend stay at rich jerk Red’s (Aaron Himelstein) parents’ ranch. Thus we have a small group of beer-drinking teens isolated on a farm with no supervision - save for rugged ranch-hand Garth (Anson Mount), a strong, silent type whom the girls take a liking to. Before you know it, the partying kids begin to meet ugly fates one by one.
MANDY LANE really lacks punch, or any sense of immediacy. Its death sequences are rather dull (aside from one gruesome moment involving a mouth getting all sorts of mangled) and there’s barely and fun to be had during the drinking-and-sex shenanigans that are requisite during one of these yarns. Perhaps it’s superficial to seek out more of the same, especially when we yearn for horror movies to give us something unique, but MANDY LANE has a strangely plodding atmosphere that just begs for a shaking-up. To put it another way, it’s kind of boring.
The actors are fine, but Levine and screenwriter Jacob Forman have not provided them with intriguing material, and every character comes off as either an irritating moron or a sullen bummer. Actually, the only interesting person in the movie is Garth, but that could just be because he’s the sole one of them we’d actually want to hang out with. (Aside from Mandy, because she really is quite purdy.)
I know what you’re thinking: Why am I complaining about ill-defined characters if this is just another slasher flick? Ah, but MANDY LANE doesn’t fancy itself just another slasher flick. It has a twist - a weak twist - at the end that gives us some second thoughts on what we’ve just seen. But this upending of our expectations doesn’t come with any brains or true meaning; it’s just there for the moment of “Ohhhh” and nothing beyond that. The power of the twist is further undercut by the fact that we all see it coming a mile away.