Review: All the Boys Love Mandy Lane
Warning: Might contain spoilers
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane had a bumpy ride before it finally saw the light of day. The Weinstein Company was all set to release it in 2007, but the critical and box office failure of Grindhouse prompted them to sell the film to Senator Entertainment US and as such it received a more limited release, though it gained acclaim at the Toronto International Film Festival. Despite this, it is apparently good enough to have subsequent films being touted as “the next All the Boys Love Mandy Lane;” since I am a sucker for hype, I felt I would be doing myself a disservice as a horror fan to not see the film as soon as humanly possible. Armed with my laptop, a lack of power due to a tropical storm unleashing all holy hell upon us, and a comfy futon, I caved and watched this supposedly clever little sleeper hit. What followed was an hour and a half of confusion and, ultimately, disappointment.
Mandy Lane is a plain Jane turned uber-babe over the course of a summer, and naturally all the guys at her school want to “get” with her (to borrow a line from the film and the 80s). This includes her best friend Emmet, who inadvertently causes the death of a popular jock at a pool party one evening by daring him to jump off the roof of the house. He subsequently smacks his head on the concrete, and fifteen years of sports trivia, along with half his brain, comes oozing out. Nine months later, sweetheart Mandy Lane has a new group of friends, and Emmet is but a distant memory (I’m assuming this is because he basically killed a guy, but I could be wrong). Attending a getaway at a friend’s ranch that serves as nothing more than an attempt for the males of the group to get into her pants, Mandy Lane and her new friends have no idea what’s in store during their drug and alcohol fueled weekend.
The acting is typical of slasher-fare, showcasing the characters’ skills at being loathsome pricks and drug-addled sluts, though in the end it doesn’t matter anyways as they all serve as pretty much nothing but coffin fodder. The eponymous Mandy Lane bothered me throughout the entire film. However, her relatively uncharacteristic approach to a group of drug and alcohol fueled teenagers and their eventual slayings came to light at the end of the film, thus redeeming her. The nerdy Emmet was comparable to Ducky from Pretty in Pink, though only insofar as they both play the hopelessly-in-love nerdy best friend. Of the cast, I’d say the strongest part was Garth, played by Anson Mount, who managed to inject a bit of stoic humor into the role of the ranch hand tasked with keeping an eye on the ill-fated group of teenagers. The supposed twist at the end is sullied by the beginning of the film (much like Haute Tension), ruining any chance of the film being deemed intelligent, despite the review of one critic.
Though I do have serious misgivings about the film as a whole, the final five minutes served as a last minute attempt at retribution, throwing at the audience a series of one-liners that finally killed off Mandy’s relatively stoic attitude and made her seem as a big a bitch as the rest of the females in the film. When I spoke to my friend concerning this film, he criticized me for not taking into account its budget, which checks in at a weak $750,000. I agreed, and figured that with a greater budget he might have been able to craft a more solid horror film, complete with bloodier deaths, better actors, and everything else that gets brushed aside when the money doesn’t flow as readily as one would like. I don’t think, however, that the problems stem from financial concerns (though I could be wrong. I know next to nothing about the film-making process), but primarily from a weak script and an overabundance of cliches.
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane has an identity crisis. It’s a teen flick without enough humor or tits and ass, and it’s a slasher flick without enough blood or violence. Any attempt at reviving a once thriving sub-genre has been given its last rites by a film that tried too hard to be edgy when it was just dull and too smart when it was just predictable. It’s one redeeming quality is the ending, yet it is not enough to save the film from the myriad of cliches that riddle the hour of worthless exposition and half hour of barely-there violence and gore. Levine set out to make a modern slasher flick that stood out on its own, supported by a strong cast and a smart script, but he ultimately failed in his attempt to do so. The slasher film has become played out represented by nothing more than big-budget remakes and small independents that fall dangerously short in their attempt at reviving a genre that died so long ago, and this film does not stand out from the crowd.