All the Boys Love Mandy Lane
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006)
★★★ / ★★★★
In other words, all the boys in her high school junior class wish to bed Mandy Lane (Amber Heard). Mandy is a paragon of the unattainable: despite many advances from typical all-American jocks to the more sensitive intellectuals, she has a way of refusing them without coming off like she is full of herself. She is invited by the guys to all the parties not because they like her or are interested in her as a person but because they hope that she will get drunk enough and lose control. The most recent invitation comes from Red (Aaron Himelstein) and four of his friends (Melissa Price, Whitney Able, Edwin Hodge, Luke Grimes) for a weekend getaway at a ranch where nobody is around for miles.
There is a self-awareness in “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane,” directed by Jonathan Levine, that I enjoyed but it is not as showy as the likes of Wes Craven’s “Scream,” Ruben Fleischer’s “Zombieland,” or even Scott Glosserman’s “Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon.” It is self-aware not in dialogue but through its tone, mood, and texture. A handful of its images, especially during the third act, beckon to ’70s grindhouse pictures.
Heard brings to life a protagonist with natural charm. Even though Mandy is for the most part a quiet individual, there is an interesting confidence about her, like she is consistently in control of a situation even though she is always the object of affection. Heard is aware she is beautiful physically and so she decides to play Mandy as if the character felt ugly inside. That contrast pulled me in because I do not see that type of subtlety in horror movies. Usually the most important thing about the lead is how good she screams.
There are nice exchanges before the storm blood red. We never get the impression that the six high school students are really friends. In that way, there is truth. In high school, just because you hang out as a group does not mean you have to like each other. Sometimes it is more important not to be alone in a physical sense. For the most part, these kids are walking bags of hormones wanting to get laid. Many of the scenes are typical–poking fun of one another, somebody always trying to sound or act cool, a girl taking off her shirt as the others gawk–but there is a flow to them. It is not simply a matter of passively sitting there and waiting for them to get killed.
The depictions of violence are often short and to the point. Once it reaches a climax, the tension remains. As expected, the question that lingers in our minds is who will be next to get hurt or die, but the writing by Jacob Forman is not cynical. Even though the teenagers–other than our protagonist–are really not that likable, it gives some impression that the movie wants them to live or fight. As a result, the violence occurs but we do not feel rotten about it.
I was surprised by some of the beautiful imagery that “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” offers. For instance, some killings occur during the daytime. The decision to couple the vast landscape of the ranch with claustrophobic wince-inducing attacks made me feel uneasy but in a good way. The appeal of the final few scenes lie somewhere between Terrence Malick’s “Badlands” (we can almost taste the manure) and Greg Mclean’s “Wolf Creek” (the sinking feeling that escape might not be possible). Clearly there is a level of artistry here that is uncommon to slasher films.