There are movies that are long-delayed, and then there’s All The Boys Love Mandy Lane, which took seven long years to finally reach theater screens. The darling of the 2006 festival circuit, it had critics and audiences raving, distributors salivating and many tagged it as the next big thing in horror. And then it disappeared. The unlucky victim of distribution woes that held up its release in legal limbo, it clung to the cinematic shelf, where it gained a cult reputation as a lost classic only a lucky few have seen…
Here’s the thing about All The Boys Love Mandy Lane: don’t believe the hype.
If absence really does make the heart grow fonder, than that can only explain why everyone seems to be in love with this film – and why, now that it’s finally getting an official release (currently available on VOD, it played a special screening at the recently concluded Fantastic Fest ahead of a limited theatrical release October 11), fans will realize that this emperor has no clothes. There’s no way around it, folks — seven years of hype and this film turns out to be terrible.
An utterly generic slasher film done up in now-dated mid-aughts indie “style”, the idea behind All The Boys Love Mandy Lane seems to be “what if Larry Clark decide to make a Friday the 13th movie?” — and even that makes the film sound more compelling than it actually is. A self-consciously “gritty” and “realistic” teen terror tale, it isolates an especially obnoxious crew of sex, booze and drugged-soaked horny high schoolers on a remote ranch where they are picked off one by one. Almost all of them are lusting after the titular heroine (Amber Heard, in her first film role), the reigning virgin-goddess of their school. Untouched and untouchable, beautiful, intoxicating and unattainable, all the boys want her (love might be too sincere a word for the sexually-charged assemblage of testosterone here) and when she inexplicably agrees to go with a group of classmates to spend the weekend at the stoner Red’s family’s ranch, the three boys make plans to be the ones to conquer her, while the two other girls do what they can to sexually please the boys into wanting them instead.
Until an uninvited guest shows up and begins to — slowly — dispose of these miscreants one by one. The only problem? Director Jonathan Levine (who went on to make superior films like the cancer dramedy 50/50 and zombie romance Warm Bodies) envisions All The Boys Love Mandy Lane less as a horror film that has a hip indie drama in slasher film clothes. Visually ugly, with super desaturated colors and annoying cinematographic fillips like stutter-imaging and chaoticly placed superimpositions, its soundtrack bedecked with bland emo tunes, All The Boys spends too much time establishing these unlikable, unsympathetic, hedonistic morons as if its really a spiritual sequel to Kids or any of the witlessly hip bad-behavior dramas that came in its wake (expect lots of slo-mo and “meaningful” shots of the kids walking.)
When it gets down to the “horror,” Levine seems distinctly disinterested in delivering the genre requisites: there’s absolutely zero suspense or tension, in a predictable twist, the killer is revealed halfway through, killing any sense of mystery the film might have had, and any kind of forward momentum is absent, bogged down by Levine’s languid sensibilities. Even the kill scenes fail to deliver on any memorable gore, refusing to give us even some cheap thrills to counter the endless ennui that ecompasses the rest of the film.
I’ve seen lots of slasher films one could describe as “boring”, with one note characters enacting decades worth of genre cliches, but none are as hatefully dull as All The Boys Love Mandy Lane. With a quintet of the most insufferable characters ever in a slasher film—yes, even Heard’s Mandy Lane, who is more a symbol for the camera to endlessly ogle than a fully rounded character—and an indulgent directorial style that’s even more abrasive for its datedness, All The Boys Love Mandy Lane is a long-buried film that probably should have stayed that way.
1 out of 5 stars