Good teen slashers have receded in a big way since the scream heydays and all the clones that immediately followed. The horror genre is littered with titles that ape what inspired to an obnoxious extent, or try to separate themselves from the pack to the point that they for better or worse miss their intended target. Then of course we have a select amount of titles that fly under the radar that have the potential to be what fans of the genre have been missing and might even break new ground that aren’t given the chance when studios bury them in a thick layer of dust on the shelf. ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE, is one of those films that has sat in obscurity for far too long and may be a bit outdated for today’s audiences that suffer short attention spans, but more than hits the G-spot for horror fans aching for the old familiar feelings of angst in a teen slasher.
The film was Jonathan Levine’s debut feature and stars Amber Heard as Mandy Lane a high school girl that spent her summer getting extremely hot and is now drawing a lot of attention from the boys in her school. A year after a horrible accident has alienated her from her best friend she has made friends with a group of popular kids that invite her to a weekend getaway at one of their parents secluded ranch homes. Naturally, as the teens partake in sex and drugs they also are getting picked off one by one by a secret admirer.
Without spoiling the film, what separates this from other teen slashers- at least from my memory bank- is that the familiar reveal doesn’t happen as we’ve a come to expect. Take that as you will, but the surprises don’t stop at that pivotal moment because the final act has plenty of surprises to offer, to an extent that I went from being lukewarm on the film to kind of loving it.
The better chunk of the first half of MANDY LANE feels pretty paint-by-numbers, with the exception of the opening scenes. There is a palpable sense of tension throughout, but the execution of the “slasher” aspects until the turning point are pretty generic. The script is chock full of teen speak, which may or may not ring true depending on the generation you grew up in or how familiar you are with the way teens speak when not around their adult counterparts. For me, the dialogue for the most part seemed authentic, but also exaggerated to the point that these teens are funnier and easier to put up with than most high school douchebags these days. I can’t say that a lot of the actions make sense to me though or the way that a few of the interactions between characters are staged- suffice to say that if I was getting half the action these characters are getting I may not have hated high school as much.
Once the bloodshed begins things pick up quite a bit- however, the gore and the kills are about as low budget as it gets and quite tame compared to things you might see the majority of R rated horror films. The weapon of choice and the high school setting may hit a little too close to home for some in a post Columbine society, especially given the motivation and udder lack of remorse for the actions. At the same time though, this film is not here to be a political statement or a PSA about the dangers of drugs, guns or violence so holding that against it would be pointless.
ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE is an interesting cocktail- a dash of generic mediocre slasher tropes, two parts interesting high school teenage angst exploration, a healthy pour of self effacing raunchy teen dialogue and a little twist of a secret ingredient. As with just about everything in life this is a little indie flick that will go down smooth for some while causing a violent hangover for others. Personally I found even though this is maybe a few years outdated it hasn’t really soured with age and is something all horror fans should seek out and see for themselves.
Written By: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)