Monday, May 12, 2014

T.I.N. Soldier's Review of All the Boys Love Mandy Lane.

The Incredibly Sarcastic Ramblings and Musings of an Adirondack Hermit Obsessed with all Things Spooky that keep you up at Night

Cy the Horror Guy
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

Here it is boys and girls! After 7 long years of waiting white-knuckled and sweaty [well I was sweaty, anyway], Jonathan Levine's freshman effort, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is here! Apparently while all the boys quite fancy Mandy Lane the studio didn't think much of her... Just what did I think, you say? Well, I'm glad you asked!

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane starts off very promising as a newly "endowed" Mandy Lane is invited to a school party with all the cool kids. Would you go? Sure you would! It's there we get the first glimpse of our heroines delicate psyche as something rather tragic happens while a bunch of underage, oversexed, unintelligent students are carrying on drinking and swimming with no adult supervision required. Who'da thunk it? To say it's like sneaking a peek into Pandora's Box is an understatement, and it makes me feel kind of dirty anyway. For this reviewer, all too much was given away at that opening party sequence. Did it ruin the viewing, however? I say nay, as Mandy Lane has proven to be quite the fun ride indeed! See what I did there?

From there the film flashes forward a year and the dark incident is put behind our dear Mandy and the rest of the unassuming town as best as possible. Not only has she risen in the ranks of the in-crowd, but she's also been invited on a very special outing with a group of kids she apparently has no use for and even less in common with... sounds great, eh? We then learn that her parents aren't in the picture and that something very mysterious has apparently happened to them. How mysterious you ask? So mysterious it's never touched upon again other than to say they died when she was a little girl. Enough said? Perhaps! However the movie does provide us, the viewer [and not just my multiple personalities], with enough information to make some assumptions of our own. And I have no qualms making an ass out of umption.

After a brief detour in the film, where we get to enjoy some beautifully captured images during a brightly lit montage sequence, we come to so and so's ranch away from home. It's there we meet the hunky Anson Mount, of Hell on Wheels Fame [come on, that show's f*#king awesome!], who's working as a farm hand for so and so's parents. Oh, he's also a war veteran who's allergic to cracking a smile and single handily responsible for ending a horrendous Cattle plague that had once threatened all the land. While on the ranch the group enjoys many family friendly activities such as drinking, smoking, swimming while drinking, snorting, huffing, popping pills, lurking in dark barns and smelly stalls while drinking, trimming pubic hair and trying to sleep with Mandy Lane.

Things take a turn for the worse when our teenage protagonists choose to play a deadly game of Truth or Dare. I say deadly only because it seems to rile up so many hormones the group can't possibly cope and from there their collective decision making truly does go downhill. Even for a horror movie. I mean, epically bad choices [like that time I wore a corduroy blouse. Don't ask]. The decided Jock of the group takes off to pout when the conversation switches to making fun of his penis. It's not a big deal, or so they say. Really, it's quite a big deal as it is almost entirely because of his choices that the rest of the group comes to their inevitable fate. Good guy that one.

Anson Mount shows back up to remind us all that he's still in the movie and scold the kids some for their reckless and irresponsible behavior. Not long after that the movie comes awfully close to a twist that would have literally blown my mind clean out of my head if they had actually followed through with it, teasing that Mandy Lane may be a lesbian. Had the filmmakers chose to go with this subplot I would have been completely sold just on the irony alone. All these guys, holed up in a ranch house, trying to sleep with this pretty girl who has no interest in them because she's into chicks. So close.

We also learn that the token black member of the group despises fireworks. So much so that he takes chase after the drunken, gun-toting stranger who fired the pretty "skyflowers" at the group while they were singing Kumbaya on the porch. Needless to say, it doesn't end well for him. However, as if in an effort to display good taste, he isn't the first to go. That's right, Mandy Lane is a movie that dispels stereotypes almost as quickly as it indulges them!

With several of their friends missing, the rest of the group chooses to call it a night and get some much needed shut-eye. It isn't until daybreak that the movie really gets going... and I mean that in the best way possible. For not only has the identity of the killer been revealed but someone finally says, "I think we need to get out of here." I would have to agree.

It's difficult to close on Mandy Lane, hehe, without giving away all too much of the films final big reveal. Suffice it to say, it provides a refreshing perspective on the tried and true Slasher-Sub genera. In all seriousness, is Mandy Lane a perfect film? Absolutely not. It often suffers the same pratfalls as the horror films it seeks to lampoon. Poor character dialogue, decisions made only to serve the plot, and in an effort to raise the bar of intelligence- skirts some pretty major back story. Just who is Mandy Lane and what is it that she's after? Yes, we're given enough information to make some guesses of our own, but it's all rather abstract. However, it's hard to say where parody ends and sub par writing begins. After all, isn't Mandy Lane meant to be a retooling of some of horror cinema's oldest conventions? And if so, wouldn't the poor dialogue and dumb decisions be accurate, even necessary? Something to think about, that's for sure.

Still, there's a lot going for it. I loved Amber Heard's portrayal of the titular character and her relationship with the disillusioned Emmet is handled quite well. The rest of the actors did the best they could with what they had, and even the cringe worthy dialogue was handled with gusto. Much credit to the director, Jonathan Levine, for handling the picture in such a way that it feels like it could be a spiritual successor to Toby Hooper's original Texas Chainsaw Massacre [albeit one with significantly less gore]. There's also a terrific use of freeze frame at play here and it bodes well for the films anachronistic tone. One scene in particular stands out for me, where we find our "villain" character chanting the school fight song before using the butt of his rifle to put his victim out of their misery. Freeze frame!

It's also to note that the film boasts a terrific soundtrack featuring some well done covers of yesterdays classics, such as "Sister Golden Hair" originally by America, as well as some fun tracks by The Go-Go's and The Eagles. Your ears won't get sleepy with this one no-no's! And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the amazing work of cinematographer Darren Genet, who shot the film as if it was a polaroid picture taken at sunset... and I for one love polaroid's and sunset! Fun fact: In recognition of his stellar lensing on Mandy Lane, Genet has gone on to... The Vampire Diaries? Apparently, there's no justice in this world. Hell, since when does one aspire to a Twilight/True Blood teenie-bopper rip? Money for nothing and your chicks for free? Play that cinematographer on the MTV? Classic Rock references are fun! End fun fact.

Finally, I'd like give a nod to the fun as hell F-YOU ending they went with. Even if I did see part of it coming, I was still taken slightly aback by just how dark they made our eventual killer. How neat is that? Even more, we have a teenage slasher flick with an R-rating, something most of us had thought to be extinct. Thank the Horror Gods the version we have isn't some horrendously edited down PG-13 affair.

And it's my opinion, that because of these flourishes, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane should go down as a modern horror classic. My rating, for what it's worth: 7.5/10.

I'd like to end my review with my favorite quote from the film, which I feel sums everything up quite nicely. And not just the movie itself, but all of life as we know it. "See, it gets big when it gets hard. They all get big when they get hard." Priceless.

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