Studio: Anchor Bay
Director: Jonathan Levine
Writer: Jacob Forman
Producer: Felipe Marino, Joe Neurauter, Chad Feehan
Stars: Amber Heard, Michael Welch, Whitney Able, Edwin Hodge, Aaron Himelstein, Luke Grimes, Melissa Price, Anson Mount
A high school party weekend turns into a nightmare when Mandy Lane’s friends and suitors begin disappearing one by one.
All the boys do indeed love Mandy Lane. And so do some of the ladies, as well. As the most desired girl at her high school, Mandy is to die for. Unfortunately for everyone who shares that lustful attraction, she is even the type of girl that someone is willing to kill for, too.
Truth be told, not exactly everyone loves Mandy Lane. Immune to her irresistible charms are the studio executives and distributors who have allowed the film to languish in unreleased purgatory since it was completed in 2006. Seven years later, The Weinstein Company at last has the film on tap for a 2013 theatrical debut. Experience has it that this is never a good sign. After all, why would anyone bottle up a must-see moneymaker so it can collect dust instead of ticket sales?
The success or failure of “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” comes down to timing. The movie is an intentional retread of typical teen slasher tropes. Appreciation for what the film wants to do is dependent upon the viewer’s willingness to wade through familiar territory. Released in a window where 1980’s-style high school killer on the loose thrillers are few and far between, “Mandy Lane” can be entertaining for a spell, even if it is derivative. Watch it after a “Friday the 13th” marathon, however, and one is liable to grow bored very quickly.
After a stunt intended to garner Mandy’s affection turns deadly for the would-be suitor, life eventually goes on for Mandy and her circle of assorted friends and hangers-on. Classmate Red’s father owns a ranch that makes for a perfect weekend getaway and party hotspot where he can finally put the moves on Mandy. Red will have to be quick about it, though. His friends Bird and Jake have their own designs on bedding Miss Lane. But fighting over Mandy is soon to be the least of their problems. Complicating matters further is an unknown maniac who would rather butcher the kids one at a time than worry about teenage lust and high school crushes.
Equal parts cute and sexy, as well as wholesome and seductive, Amber Heard has the perfect cross-gender appeal to sell Mandy Lane as the girl that everyone wants a piece of. The premise would be DOA if Mandy were portrayed as anything less than everything Heard embodies in the role. Mandy’s personality could use some fine-tuning, as she is far from being the most interesting girl of all time, but her character is of an age when hormones are more apt to buy physical attraction than anything truly substantial.
Her friends have the expected disparate personalities. The adjectives are not as clearly delineated as is usual for this style of film, but there is still the requisite mixture of jock, nerd, stoner, and slut. Before passing this assemblage off as completely stereotypical, know that “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” depicts these characters in a more realistic and relatable light than most other films of the kind. What is unusually different about this grouping is that they are believable as a real circle of friends, even with their sometimes-clashing personas.
Whereas “Scream” was a pastiche of teen-centric horror films, “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” is a celebration of the sub-genre. In his feature debut, director Jonathan Levine eschews breaking new ground to focus on taking a proven formula and simply doing it well. For the most part, his film accomplishes its intention of slotting itself as a throwback slasher about high school revelry plagued by a serial killer. It is not necessarily a notable standout, but it is not a failure, either.
The production is solid. The photography looks good, particularly the high contrast daytime exteriors that evoke a touch of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” The acting is on par for the characterizations and the kills are suitably bloody. It may not be difficult to see why the film has been in a perpetual limbo between 2006 and 2013. It is easy to push to one side and pass “Mandy Lane” off as just another teen horror film. And in a way, it is. But at the same time, it can be an entertaining spin inside the sub-genre, even if it is not wholly original.
Review Score: 70