There is a tendency among hardcore horror hounds to equate obscurity with quality, and to use what you’ve seen as a measuring stick of your own devotion and fandom. Sometimes, when you spend months, or even longer, hunting down a particularly hard to find movie you’ve been dying to see, your efforts pays off, other times not so much. Thus is the case with “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane,” and after years, it is finally available for widespread public consumption so you can see what you’ve been missing.
After making quite a ruckus at the Toronto International Film Festival way back in 2006, the first feature from Jonathan Levine (“Warm Bodies”) all but disappeared. The Weinsteins and Miramax picked up the North American distribution rights, but after “Grind House” underperformed they passed the buck to a smaller company, one that shortly thereafter went belly up. Since then the film has become a thing of legend, released in the UK, but still relatively difficult to find on US shores. While “All the Boys” isn’t a bad horror yarn by any stretch of the imagination, it hardly seems worth the wait and the hype.
Mandy Lane (Amber Heard) is an anomalous outsider. New to her smallish town high school, she is very different from the rank and file. She doesn’t like to party, she’s not particularly into dating and being cool, and she’s nice to everyone regardless of social standing. It just so happens that she’s also super hot, so all of the boys, you know, want to get with her and her underlying strangeness is easily forgiven and ignored. There is something else there, some darkness that you can’t quite place and that is only ever hinted at in the most oblique way. You never learn where Mandy came from, but she lives with relatives, and there are allusions to past troubles, just enough to plant a seed in your mind.
Mandy only has one real friend, Emmet (Michael Welch), a more overt style of weirdo lurking on the periphery of teenage social life. He doesn’t have the luxury of being good looking or nice. A lot is overlooked if you’re pretty. At a party one night, Emmet urges the reigning beehive alpha male into doing something stupid to impress Mandy, and the boy dies in the process. Then their relationship changes. After a school year spent under the weight of this tragedy, the boys are still after the prize. Finally relenting, she goes on a weekend getaway with some of the in crowd to a remote farm estate, where, over the course of a night of partying, people start dropping one by one.
“All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” is pretty standard teens-in-isolation horror stuff. All the usual types are represented. You have the clueless burnout stoner; top dog, bitchy hot girl; girl who sleeps around for approval; and jock who pretends to be a sensitive soul, but who still just wants to get into Mandy’s pants. There’s also a version of the creepy caretaker, only in this iteration he’s the young and totally dreamy Garth (Anson Mount). The killer is obvious from word one, so apparent that they let the identity out halfway through; and the teens do some of the most idiotic, illogical things you’ll ever see. Think the most ill timed kiss in movie history. The same goes for the twist ending. Even though it is only ever whispered at, you see it coming from miles away.
Every day I’m surprised that Amber Heard is not a bigger star. She’s getting there, and maybe I have a skewed sense of her level of fame, but there’s no reason why she isn’t huge. First off, she’s way, way better looking than most of her peers, and to top it off, she’s a fantastic actor. Drop dead gorgeous and she has the range to play everything from sweet and innocent to sexy and badass? Why the hell isn’t everyone putting her in their movies? The rest of the cast is fine. They do exactly what they’re supposed do, even, on occasion, bringing a little more depth than usual to their stock personas.
“All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” is a fun little horror flick, a throwback to early 80s teens-in-trouble slasher fare. There’s bloody action and some fun banter, and this is definitely a film you should watch if you’re so inclined. As entertaining a film as it is, however, it’s nothing mind blowing or world changing, and doesn’t live up to the hype. You can’t help but think that if not for the extended delay it would be remembered as a nice, but unremarkable horror outing.
“All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” is now available on VOD and will get a limited theatrical run beginning on October 6.
Jonathan Levine (director)/Jacob Forman (writer)
CAST: Amber Heard…Mandy Lane