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Overall Rating

Awesome: 22.73%
Worth A Look38.64%
Average: 4.55%
Pretty Bad: 18.18%
Total Crap: 15.91%

5 reviews, 14 user ratings

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All the Boys Love Mandy Lane
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Erik Childress

"And Moviegoers Should Love Her Too"
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2008 CHICAGO FLASHBACK WEEKEND: A lot of psychologists and cinema analysts will preach to you the inner meaning behind all the shocking violence and effect on audiences that horror films leave in their wake. Purity of the virgin always equals your best chance for an escape. Sex is dirty and cliches are even messier. The Scream trilogy got a lot of mileage satirizing the very elements that have become commonplace since the advent of John Carpenter’s Halloween 30 years ago, a film whose opening scene put us right into the POV of the killer. Countless sequels, remakes and low budget wannabes later, “torture porn” is now all the rage and the “experts” are still crying foul, throwing a genre under the bus for being a one-chop-stop for cheap gore with filmmakers not even worth that much. Along comes a film like Mandy Lane though, held up in distribution hell since it’s acquisition at the 2006 Toronto Film Fesitval, and is just waiting out there to put the kind of artistic stamp on the elements that even the most dismissive thumbnoses will be contemplating long after the final body is dispatched.

We don’t know what Mandy Lane (Amber Heard) looked like last semester, but she’s come back to school and is now drawing deep looks in the hallway. Emmet (Michael Welch) has been the best friend by her side even before this awakening and now is disturbed to see all the popular kids and jock itches flock to her still shy side. Infatuation may have gone too far when Emmet manages to convince a drunken suitor to show Mandy what a Golden God he is and their relationship is strained entering the following school year. By then, Mandy’s a track star, her friends have gone up in status and Emmet can barely get a word in without being ignored; outside the friend zone he was once the only member of.

This weekend, Mandy is joining her new crew for a weekend out on the ranch owned by Red’s (Aaron Himelstein) father. Also joining them are popular chicks, Chloe (Whitney Able) and Marlin (Melissa Price). Jake (Luke Grimes) is an arrogant cuss who will accept any form of sexual stimulation and doesn’t believe in give-and-take. Bird (Edwin Hodge) chooses the nice guy approach to unsubtly make his moves on Mandy, who quietly may have her eye on older ranchhand, Garth (Anson Mount), whose responsibility to Red’s dad involves a constant lookout and a large shotgun. While drinks and flirtations dominate the evening, there may be an eighth visitor to the ranch that weekend and slowly, gruesomely, that number begins to decrease.

The atypical horror scenario to be sure. Get together a bunch of drunken, horny teenagers and then dispatch their sinful ways one-by-one in time for Mandy Lane to save the day. Except this is not just another modern Agatha Christie tale with heroines and unmaskings. Actually, we are aware of who’s behind the slayings by the second victim. Consciously, it’s a wise decision since wasting time on solving a mystery (that would have been easy pickings anyway) would distract us from the horrific nature of the killings and the layered psychosis behind the rest of the film. When someone is dispatched here, there’s a brutality that goes beyond simple shock value. There is frustration behind each attempt and a rage-fueled extension that turns murder into punishment and a sloppiness that turns our standard “ahhhh”s into “ooohhhh”s and various other sounds of displeasure as if our bodies were being penetrated along with the characters. How’s that for POV?

Still, Mandy Lane does not play like your usual stalk-and-prey horror film. There are those eerie in-the-shadows moments, but director Jonathan Levine (whose sophomore effort, The Wackness, is hitting theaters first) isn’t just establishing mood or suspense or playing with conventions a la Scream or Student Bodies. These bodies have space between them and that distance allows for the kind of after-screening contemplation that its realistically kinetic finale implants directly into our post-Columbine psyche. Without exploiting such tragedies, the film leaves us to decipher what lurks within all that anger and each betrayal. Impressively shot by cinematographer Darren Genet (also responsible for recent CineVegas premiere, the striking looking South of Heaven), All the Boys Love Mandy Lane may have an indie budget but equally evokes the rich landscapes of early Terrence Malick and the grimy grindhouse tales of the ‘70s, converging poetically into its heartmashing climax.

If the film has any major flaws, you can look no further than our distance from the title character. Perhaps avoiding the kind of glasses/ponytail transformation that has become an insulting cliché in teenage romances, we know little of Mandy Lane’s history as either outcast or invisible girl. Levine manages to sell it well enough through her company’s ooglings and Beethoven symphonics but Heard is only given enough material to act either cautious or disinterested for most of the running time. There’s also the title itself, presented to us with a needless bit of blood curdling foreshadowing to open the film. Perhaps a classically cautious ploy to curb restlessness while horror fiends await the first kill, this is a film where the blood and carnage doesn’t feel like corn syrup or CGI and each death grows in sadness, not quality. All the Boys Love Mandy Lane has an acute sense of teen sexuality with all its foibles and seeds of domination; a period when pain grows on you or is afflicted upon by others. The “why” is the query never satisfied when someone takes up arms against their classmates. Maybe because we never want to believe in the most obvious of answers, whether it be the bully syndrome or that some people are just morally unconscious; blinded by rage, revenge or hormones. In that respect, Mandy Lane is the most conscious example of a genre bent on applause instead of true shock. You will have a lot of why’s bouncing around your head by film’s end, but the biggest may be why it’s taken so long for it to make it to theaters.

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originally posted: 07/02/08 00:58:55
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Fantasia Film Festiva For more in the 2008 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Chicago Critics Film Festival For more in the 1st Annual Chicago Critics Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Stanley Film Festival For more in the 2013 Stanley Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/24/13 Molly I enjoyed it quite thoroughly. I liked the way it was filmed especially. 4 stars
11/21/10 Ryan One Of The Best Slasher Horrors I Have Ever Seen! It's Smart, It's Funny, It's Brilliant! 5 stars
7/20/09 Kazelwws Hi webmaster! lpy 4 stars
3/13/09 vxtq OK, but nothing to write home about. It takes to long to go anywhere 3 stars
2/22/09 Harold Parker This movie sucked ! Don't waste your time and money. Horribly shot. 1 stars
2/12/09 MP Bartley Dull for most parts. The ending is interesting but silly when you think too hard about it. 2 stars
2/11/09 DK Well made, well shot and with more intelligence than average slasher 4 stars
9/12/08 DW Smith And I was so looking forward to it. 3 stars
8/06/08 E K Zimmerman Meh - below average teen horror junk. 2 stars
7/12/08 Laura Lots of too! 5 stars
10/01/06 duder saw in toronto at the fest. loved it. 4 stars
9/15/06 Emmet It f-ing killed. awesome. 5 stars
9/14/06 Carl Smart, funny and scary! Best slasher flick since Scream. 5 stars
9/13/06 Edward Connell A must see movie spectacular 4 stars
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  11-Oct-2013 (R)
  DVD: 03-Dec-2013

  15-Feb-2008 (18)

  05-Mar-2009 (MA)

Directed by
  Jonathan Levine

Written by
  Jacob Forman

  Amber Heard
  Anson Mount
  Michael Welch
  Aaron Himelstein
  Edwin Hodge
  Whitney Able

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