Do you remember the girl that everyone wanted? Wanted to know, wanted to see, wanted to touch and wanted to be. What was her name—that mysterious creature that floated down the corridors of countless high schools in countless towns, day after day, year after year, decade after decade? You knew her but you never knew her. She lived and breathed and passed by on a cloud of faint perfume, her name breathlessly blowing in the wind—whispering—Mandy Lane.
Mandy Lane (Amber Heard) is every boy’s fantasy—perfection in every pore. A porcelain goddess put on the earth to torture souls with the bat of an eyelash and the curl of her upper lip. And because the Gods have a sprightly sense of humor, Mandy Lane suffers from the total inability to recognize her seemingly endless charms.
As the film begins, Mandy and her best friend Emmet (Michael Welch, upcoming DAY OF THE DEAD) are invited to local jock, Dylan’s pool party. Ok, that’s not entirely true, Mandy is invited, she just drags Emmet along for the ride—a move that clearly raises the ire of the bleach blond Bo hunk. Once the party is started, Mandy is reluctant to strip down and hop in the pool and Emmet is clearly out of his element. As the Boons Farm flows and the bongs are broken out, Emmet convinces Dylan that to impress the fair Mandy Lane, he should leap into the pool from the roof of his house. And such was the end of Dylan’s golden life.
Nine months later we see Mandy aproaching the end of her junior year. To celebrate, a group of would-be friends are trying to convince the virginal beauty to accompany them to Red’s (Aaron Himelstein, FAST FOOD NATION) ranch house for a weekend of drinking and debauchery the likes of which are generally reserved for early 80’s teen sex comedies. The pair of girls, Chloe and Marlin have their eyes on the boys, Jake and Bird—but like the story goes…all the boys love Mandy Lane.
Things seem to be progressing nicely as the crew spends their days drinking and swimming and smoking and drinking and drinking. But when the sun sets they’ll be stalked and killed off one-by-one leaving virtually no one left but the resplendent Mandy Lane.
Director Jonathan Levine and writer Jacob Forman know conventions. They’re steeped in genre history and their film hits all the high and low notes. The gore is great and the tension is palpable. They never shy away from showing the killer and rely on shotgun blasts to paralyze the audience instead of the usual false jump scares that lesser filmmakers employ. It’s clear that they are confident in their approach to the material and that steady hand shows throughout the production.
At the center of the story is Amber Heard who clearly handles the most difficult role in the film—where each of the other characters is in many ways a stereotype of what you’d find in any given high school in America, Heard had to be so much more. She is required to embody an archetype that can hardly be described—A Helen to the people of her high schools Troy. I cannot stress enough how clearly she needed to be the absolute physical and spiritual embodiment of perfection to play this part. And to her undeniable credit Amber Heard rose magnificently to that occasion. It’s obviously a handicap to title your film ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE if you can’t deliver that promise. Levine and his crew did that first aspect of their jobs with resounding success.
Probably one of the most surprising aspects of the film is the director’s decision to reveal the killer early on. If you watch enough horror films it seems clear the path the film is heading in so they decided to slip out that little spoiler early on and get right to the business of focusing on the killings. After all, this is a horror film, and one that is paying as much homage to it’s predecessors as it can bear to handle. Everything from the dusty Texas ranch house and the desaturated lighting scheme to the HALLOWEEN cum FRIDAY THE 13TH morality killings. MANDY LANE hits all the marks, which could have been a detriment to the production, but in the deft hands of Levine adds a rich history to a story that’s been told plenty of times before…albeit with a twist.
I really wanted to like this film and that is usually the kiss of death for a project. But ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE is an exception to my caustic rule. It is a solid entry into the slasher genre and a pretty damn good teen thriller too boot. Levine and Forman make the genre work for them in a way that most filmmakers lack the foresight to accomplish. As the blood flows and the breasts come out, the film succeeds where so many others have failed—in recreating a bygone era of 1980’s styled horror with a new millennium sensibility but not resorting to post-SCREAM self-referentiation.