Who is Mandy Lane and why do all the boys love her? It certainly isn’t for her originality or sparkling conversation. Michael Mackenzie takes a look at Optimum’s upcoming all-regions Blu-ray release.
“The OC meets Friday the 13th!” proclaims the quote on the front cover of All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. Unfortunately, while soundbite reviews such as these rarely turn out to be an accurate representation of the material being hawked (who can forget the inclusion of the words “hysterically funny” on the cover of Norbit?), I’m sorry to have to report that, for once, we have an exception to the rule. All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is a curious beast, a generic teen slasher movie that purports to deconstruct the rules of generic teen slasher movies, but one which is just a little too fond of the material it attempts to critique for the experiment to be particularly successful.
Mandy Lane (Amber Heard) got hot over the summer, and, as the title points out, all the boys love her. Well, technically, all the boys want to have sex with her, which I’m not entirely convinced is the same thing, but I suppose “All the Boys Want to Have Sex with Mandy Lane” wouldn’t have made for such a catchy title. Anyway, Mandy and her best friend, Emmet (Michael Welch), attend a pool party, at which Emmet goads the particularly Neanderthal host into diving off the roof of his house… with fatal results.
Nine months later, Mandy Lane is still hot and all the boys still love her. This time, a rather unlikely quintet of friends have invited her to join them at the remote ranch belonging to the father of one of the group, Red (Aaron Himelstein), so they can engage in such intellectually stimulating pastimes as drinking, smoking pot, having sex and critiquing each other’s genitals. This time, however, Emmet, who is no longer in Mandy’s good books since the pool accident, is most assuredly not invited. Cue a lot of vapidity and sexual innuendo, followed by the inevitable point when an unidentified assassin begins butchering the teenagers in a variety of creative and suitably unpleasant ways, and our hapless group of airheads get the opportunity to demonstrate just how criminally stupid they really are.
Who do you suppose the killer might be? It really is as obvious as you’d think, and yet, strangely enough, during the first couple of kills, first-time writer Jacob Forman and first-time director Jonathan Levine (there are a lot of first times here) actually seem to be making some sort of attempt to keep his identity concealed. They throw in a sinister groundskeeper (Anson Mount) as a brief red herring, but this idea is abandoned pretty quickly, and they settle on having Emmet walk around unmasked. There is, predictably, a twist in the whole affair, but if you can’t work it out within the first five minutes, then you’re probably also the sort of person who’s surprised when the villain’s identity is revealed in an episode of Scooby-Doo.
Scooby-Doo is actually a pretty good point of reference here, because this film plays to more or less the same intellectual level. It’s generally inadvisable to use movies as a guide to reality (to quote Ian Charleson’s character in Opera), but let’s just say that, if the average American teenager is as shallow and obnoxious as the ones shown here, then I fear greatly for that country’s future. The five so-called “friends” with whom we spend the bulk of the film’s duration are so downright repugnant that you really have no choice but to start cheering when the killer begins cutting a swathe through them. It’s impossible to feel even a shred of sympathy towards any of them, because no matter how hard done to they are made out to be, the manner in which they treat their fellow human beings insures that they deserve everything they get. Feel sorry for Jake (Luke Grimes) because his friends laugh at him for the size of his “package”? Not to worry – he makes up for being under-endowed by being a colossal dick in a different way. Think it’s a shame that Chloe (Whitney Able) is mocked by Marlin (Melissa Price) for her generous covering of hair in the downstairs department? Don’t bother – she makes ungrounded negative comments about Marlin’s weight every time she opens her mouth.
So yes, we’re essentially treated to one dick (or bush) joke after another for a good two-thirds of the running time, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that that’s as far as it goes. The filmmakers, however, have other ideas, and decide to play the “irony” card that was already looking old and tatty when Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson did it with Scream a decade earlier. I always feel, with films like these, that the people responsible are under the impression that being knowing is the same thing as being clever, when in fact all it does is show that they can recognise the clichés of the genre (which really isn’t hard given that Scream took the trouble to spell them out). As a result, you get the sense that Forman thinks he’s being clever by killing one girl by having the butt of a rifle rammed down her throat shortly after she has given another character a blowjob, but it’s not – it’s just mean-spirited. Given that the character in question is about as noxious as they come, you’ll probably raise a cheer or two, but in what way is that any different from the films of the 80s and early 90s, whose writers and directors did exactly the same thing without the benefit of self-awareness?
I did read one review which pointed out that the film seems to be rather cleverly pointing out that the killer and the victims both want Mandy, only in different ways, but that doesn’t really wash when you consider that Mandy is never even targeted by the killer. Mandy, incidentally, is quite possibly the blandest lead any slasher movie has ever had. Her character really doesn’t extend beyond “hot” and “marginally less obnoxious than her peers”, but once again I don’t see how this offers anything that the genre’s pre-Scream entries didn’t already give us. I’m sure the filmmakers would argue that this is them once more being self-aware, but again my response would be “And?”
What this ultimately leaves us with is a fairly conventional and reasonably well-made exploitation flick with a bit of WB-style surface gloss thrown in to detract from the grit and grime of the bloodletting. Taken on these terms, it’s a fairly entertaining way of passing the time, but it’s hard to shake the impression that it puts a bit too much effort into achieving very little. Reviewed as a straight-up horror flick, it’s slightly better than average, but by purporting (and failing) to be something more, its makers may have ended up making it seem like more of a failure than it actually is… if that makes any sense.
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane arrives on an all-regions single-layer Blu-ray Disc from Optimum. The 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer, which presents the film in its theatrical 2.39:1 aspect ratio, is fairly eye-pleasing but is marred by some flaws which may be a result of its independent origins. Detail is generally passable but not stellar, with a mild amount of unsightly ringing occasionally becoming distracting. The grain is reproduced well and gets quite heavy at times, which makes the high bit rate, rarely dropping below 30 Mbps, a godsend. The film alternates between extremely contrasty day scenes with blown-out highlights and murky night scenes, but this is clearly a stylistic choice on the part of the director.
Audio choices consist of two English tracks, Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 Kbps) and DTS-HD Master Audio (variable bit rate), both of which serve the film rather well, with decent background action and reasonable, if occasionally slightly rough (as a result of the original recording, probably) dialogue clarity. To my ears, there’s really nothing to choose between the two of them, and you’ll probably be happy regardless of the capabilities of your setup.
Optional English subtitles are provided.
Optimum haven’t exactly pushed the boat out on the extras, giving us the UK theatrical trailer and a whopping 28-minute interview with Amber Heard. Both of these are in standard definition PAL format, so if, like me, you have an NTSC-only Blu-ray player, you’ll be out of luck. (For the purposes of this review, I watched them on my PC.)
More disturbing than anything else due to Heard’s assertion that the film’s portrayal of teenagers is realistic and that Mandy Lane is a “well-written and complex character”, the interview rambles on for hard too long and could do with having been subjected to some judicious editing. She seems genuine enough and is clearly proud of the film, but it’s hard not to feel slightly sorry for her when she laments all the scripts that get sent to her which require her to play pretty, vacuous blondes, given that she seems to be under the misconception that her role in this film was something other than that.
A slightly-better-than-average overreacher of a slasher, all the boys may love Mandy Lane, but unfortunately I can’t quite extend that sentiment to her movie. Optimum’s Blu-ray release is unremarkable, but does benefit from a rather nice audio mix, while its region-free status is appreciated.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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