All The Boys Love Mandy Lane was a film I’d been looking forward to for a long time. It screened at last years’ FrightFest but after too little sleep and having already spent 12 hours in the cinema, I had to give it a miss. My initial enthusiasm for it came from hearing that it was a different take on the teen slasher and as a massive fan of the genre I’m always curious to see any variant on it, hoping for something fresh and fantastic, sadly I was left a little disappointed and generally underwhelmed.
Mandy Lane isn’t a bad film it’s just that it seemed, on so many levels, completely at odds with itself. After quite a strong start which includes the films’ stand out moment (involving one of the most sickening thuds I’ve ever heard), it perfectly sets up the film’s main premise – that being driven by the need for sex just for its own sake, can have fatal consequences.
The problems start almost immediately though, as what could have evolved into a dark satire on teen high school movies – taking an anti-jock sentiment to a new level – soon feels all too familiar as Mandy and her group of newly acquired ‘popular’ friends head out to a ranch in the middle of nowhere and start getting picked off one by one.
The idea behind Mandy herself is that having hit puberty with a bang over the course of a summer break, she has become one of the hottest girls in school, with the extra appeal that she is also a virgin, which drives all the boys into a desperate competition to be her first. What’s problematic with her character is that we don’t really get an insight into her as a person or into her dynamic with the other people around her; for the most part she is quiet, her appeal to the boys being purely aesthetic and based on the reasons above.
I kept thinking about There’s Something About Mary, another film based on men’s obsessive attraction to one woman, and how during the course of that film I was completely won over by Cameron Diaz’s performance, which made the insanity of the situation a lot easier to relate to.
In Mandy Lane Amber Heard doesn’t have much to do much at all apart from occasionally look a bit disturbed, or clinically rebuke the advances of horny jocks; I know we’re talking about teen hormones here, but the other girls were hardly unattractive – consequently Mandy’s appeal on screen was somewhat lacking.
Her most interesting scene occurs with one of the other girls in which it’s hinted that she might have lesbian tendencies, but – as with most of the films interesting parts – this seems fleeting and never fully developed. For a moment I thought it would be a fantastic twist to have a killer obsessed with the main character only for her to reveal that she actually had no interest in men at all.
Mandy’s surrounding characters consisted of the usual one-dimensional fodder – a few jocks, a stoner and some mean girls – who yet again prove to be shallow and utterly unlikeable. Other people have praised Mandy Lane for trying to make the characters have a little more depth and realism to them, but just having them urinate in front of eachother, have inane conversations and use the c-word once, really didn’t do anything for me. They might have been more realistic, but that didn’t stop the need for myself and the friend I watched it with from making the usual comments of “that fucker can’t be killed quick enough” and “somebody please kill him now!”.
Now I’m all for the ‘jocks and bimbos must die’ sentiment, but when the perpetrator of their untimely ends is revealed (about two thirds of the way through), no sympathy or depth is given to them either; quite the opposite, in fact, resulting in a film where you can’t root for the slasher or care about the victims.
The only person of interest is the quiet and enigmatic ranch hand (played by Anson Mount) but even he isn’t given much to do apart from provide a few fake scares and check in on the teens from time to time, though he does at least have some nice scenes of interaction during the last part of the film, particularly with Mandy.
Stylistically Mandy Lane veers all over the place and, like the overall tone, doesn’t cohesively stick together. The opening shot of Mandy walking down a school corridor and turning heads with her new curves is filmed in the style of teen high school comedy – camera focusing in on her boobs and bum – but contains washed out colours as if to show there is something dark and unconventional about the film’s approach to teen movie clichés, which is great.
But then the film switches to normal colourisation momentarily, before reverting back to the all-too-familiar bleached look, giving most shots a yellowy-brown tone that actually kept making me think there was something wrong with my eyes or the projector.
The film also indulges far too much slow-motion, one scene looking identical to a music video, but never utilises that style to lure the viewer into a false sense of security before hitting them with something as strong as the pool scene at the films’ start.
It also commits the cardinal sin (for me) of using flashing jump cuts during one of the murders, which robbed it of any impact or shock by choosing style over substance. To be fair, some of the other deaths were quite impactful, but there was nothing entertaining between them for it to suffice.
The pace of the film does quicken towards the end, though despite a lot happening in a short period of time, it all felt like too little too late. I also wish someone would put an end to the constant need in recent horror flicks, for film makers to put all of their alleged ingenuity into just one concept that is one hundred percent reliant on a twist at the end and lacks the backing to support it – if you’re holding something back from the audience for the sake of one shock, you better be damn sure it doesn’t weaken the rest of the film.
Overall the film just seemed far too average; as a horror it failed to shock or scare; if it was supposed to be a satire, then it was neither funny nor dark enough, and – like so many other recent attempts at being original – contained 20% interesting ideas and 80% padding, clichés and convention. A real shame, since the concepts were there and partly executed…but just not consistently.
I should also give mention to my friend Zack who watched the film with me, for being a good person to bounce thoughts off, but more importantly for scribbling down more notes about the film while I was on the phone (of course I paused it), than I did throughout the entire duration. He gave it two stars while my initial score was three,; but after giving it more thought while writing this up, it’s hard to know who to recommend this to, so overall a unanimous two stars I’m afraid. Pity.
All The Boys Love Mandy Lane is released July 21st