Monday, 8 December 2008

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

2008
Dir. Jonathan Levine

A bunch of horny guys try to seduce an unobtainable sexpot at a backwoods holiday ranch, with devastating and splashy consequences. Sound familiar? well, maybe that's coz it is. But! Though its title sounds more like a Ryan Reynolds and Katherine Heigl starring rom-com, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is an above par slasher movie, with more than a few nods to its Friday the 13th influences.

A lengthy, almost languid opening evokes the tantalizingly forbidden sexuality of The Virgin Suicides, with a dreamy soundtrack and sun-kissed photography. Its in this context that the title arouses connections to idyllic childhood sweet-hearts and that one girl in school who matured before the others, capturing the imagination of the male populous. Almost every shot features a half naked teen, frolicking in slow motion in a pool or on the playing field or smoking a joint. The stifling atmosphere of hormonally charged sexual exploration is explicitly conveyed and hangs thick in the air, as is the manipulative nature, pettiness and hurtful interactions of teenagers.
The film’s strength lies in its exploration of this facet of teen life with their alternative agendas and manipulative backstabbing – perfectly highlighted in an early scene involving two young men daring each other to jump off a roof into a pool below. The characters are infinitely more drawn than their usual slasher counterparts. Having said that, they can be just as annoying and make as many clichéd decisions as every other slasher film teen. Wandering off into the dark to investigate a strange noise, anyone?

The camera seems as enraptured by Mandy Lane’s body as her male peers are, and indulges in every inch of it. As the titular character, Amber Heard combines the sultriness and girl-next-door quietude of Scarlett Johansson and Abbie Cornish, and she delivers a modest and sincere performance.






Events soon veer into blatant slasher territory as Mandy is invited to stay in the isolated family ranch of flaky stoner Red. They are joined by two other couples who can’t seem to decide who they want to ‘get with.’
It’s no secret though that the three guys who organised the trip, want to get into Mandy’s underwear. However, it soon becomes apparent that they are not alone. There is also a sex-crazed psycho stalking the surrounding countryside who also takes quite a shine to our Mandy and will do anything to get her alone. Except that after the first two uninspired and unsurprising deaths, director Levine reveals the, again rather unsurprising, identity of the killer. This guy is certainly no Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers though. While this means we don’t have to sit through the usual deranged modus-operandi and obligatory self-pitying histrionics of the psycho (Mrs Voorhees and Axel Palmer we mean you) and how ‘Mandy never paid him any attention so the only way he could make her love him was by killing her friends’, what we get instead is a further twist that may not surprise some but certainly highlights again the underlying theme of manipulation and obsession. This premature unveiling of the killer also doesn’t detract from the carefully built-up tension, and events still whisk along at a brisk pace. Quite frankly though, no one will be fooled by the ranch-hand red herring.




Despite a vast array of clichés, the film still manages to remain quite fresh and the creepy atmosphere is perfectly conjured as the camera prowls around the vast house, follows characters out into the darkness of the surrounding countryside, and sneaks peeks out of windows, revealing half-glimpsed figures strolling towards the house.
The violent dispatching of various characters by the killer is quite often shocking and raw, if a little stylised; one death in particular harks back to Dario Argentoesque eye-violation, blunt and sadistic in its execution.
In the harsh light of the following morning the tension is just as thick and the violence more brutal.

Mandy Lane wears its influences on its blood-soaked sleeves, from the rather fitting title-card that harks back to the likes of My Bloody Valentine, to the sun-baked landscapes of The Texas Chain-Saw Massacre, albeit the remake, with its sweaty/dirty/sexy glossiness complete with sunspots on the camera lens. Thankfully it keeps the teen characters preoccupied with themselves, and their libidos, enough to disallow any unwelcome Kevin Williamson-style ‘irony.’ This is a sincere love letter to the grit of late 70s/early 80s slasher films. Any humour in the script comes from the acidic wit of the protagonists as they verbally spar with each other over everything from penis size, to who should go ‘check out the generator.’ Remind me again why these people are friends?

While there is a spate of early-slasher revival with the likes of The Hills Have Eyes remake, Switchblade Romance and Wolf Creek, and the varying-in-quality remakes of Prom Night, April Fool’s Day and Halloween, Mandy Lane has a sexy edge and sly wit that places it easily alongside, if not ahead, of the best of the bunch.

So, altogether now - who do we love?!

4 comments:

NAVAL LANGA said...

To Mr. James Gracy

I have just read two of your posts. I liked the energetic language you use. I would like to revisit for reading more from you.

If you like short stories and paintings, then a short visit to my blogs would be a good idea.

Naval Langa

james gracey said...

Thanks for your kind words Naval - and welcome to my blog! I look forward to visiting yours soon and having a look at some of your writing. hope you are well.
many thanks and best wishes
james

: said...

I'm looking forward to checking this one out soon. I've heard nothing but great things about it for the past couple of years . . . .


J.N.
http://www.james-newman.com

James Gracey said...

Yes, this one seems to have really struck a cord with US audiences since it FINALLY got a release. I haven't seen it since I wrote this review back in 2008, but I remember it being pretty solid.

Thanks for swinging by. :)