Sunday, October 03, 2010

There's Something About Mandy

As of this writing, ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE, a Texas-lensed throwback with a recognizable American star (Maxim cover girl Amber Heard of PINEAPPLE EXPRESS and the STEPFATHER remake), has received neither a theatrical nor home video release in the United States. It isn’t the most original or the goriest horror movie I’ve seen lately, but it delivers some wit and quality shocks and deserves to be seen by more people.

(Note: ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE joins THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, TRICK ‘R’ TREAT, and FROZEN, to name just a few recent shockers that have had difficulties reaching the wide audience they deserve. Have studios lost their nerve or just their ability to recognize a potential moneymaking horror picture when they see one?)

Mandy Lane (Heard) is a high school junior, a Good Girl whose boobs grew over the summer, which found her a new group of friends, mainly narcissists and skanks, while leaving her previous best friend Emmet (TWILIGHT’s Michael Welch) wanting. One of her new posse, Red (Aaron Himelstein), invites her to join the gang at his family’s ranch house for a weekend of drinking, drugging, and, as far as the boys are concerned, popping Mandy’s cherry.

However, since director Jonathan Levine and writer Jacob Forman are making their feature debuts by mining ‘80s slasher movies and not teen sex comedies, instead of being publicly humiliated in their efforts to bed Amber, the boys (and the girls, for that matter) are killed. The killer’s identity isn’t much of a surprise, nor does Levine intend it to be, and MANDY LANE’s biggest problem is that the murders don’t happen quickly enough. The only two killings in the film’s first hour are, naturally, the couple that has sex.

Another failing is that none of the young characters are particularly sympathetic, though my guess is Levine and Forman intended this. By focusing on hang-ups typical of 21st century teenagers, such as body image, the filmmakers appear to be making a statement about disenchanted teens.

More important, Levine is nudging teen horror movies themselves. Not with his elbow in your ribs the way Wes Craven did in SCREAM—in fact, MANDY LANE exhibits startlingly little humor—but by taking one of the genre’s most popular clich├ęs and spinning it sideways in a memorable third-act plot twist.

The film’s benefits outweigh the deficits however. Heard delivers a nicely shaded performance, and Anson Mount (co-star of Dick Wolf’s CONVICTION TV series) is ruggedly heroic as a hunky ranch hand. Much of the terror takes place outdoors during daylight, unusual for the genre, and is nicely shot by Darren Genet (KINGS). I also grinned at the witty Bobby Vinton song that concludes the picture. Gore is dished out conservatively, which may bum some horror fans, though Levine’s flagrant portrayal of drug use and sexuality better make the film’s point.

Harvey and Bob Weinstein, the former heads of Miramax, bought ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE in 2006, but sat on it after their GRINDHOUSE failed at the box office. A year later, The Weinstein Co. sold the film to Senator Entertaiment, which announced plans to release it domestically in early 2008. That never happened, and as of the fall of 2010, MANDY LANE is still unavailable in North America, though it has been seen in nearly every other market worldwide.

4 comments:

Kal said...

Thanks for once again showing me something I may have missed otherwise. I like these little unknown gems that you always need to find.

Matt Farkas said...

How did you get to see it, Marty?

Marty McKee said...

I bought the all-region British Blu-ray.

AndyDecker said...

I liked this a lot. It could have used some tightening in its first two thirds, but it had some terrific photography for this kind of movie and looked very good. And it is a catchy title :-)