by Elizabeth EstenIn the same vein as The Cabin in the Woods, filmmakers creating stories that flip the conventions of the horror genre has become a trend in many modern cinematic works (like Tucker & Dale vs Evil and The Final Girls). While many of these films add comedic touches to create this subversion, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane takes this type of movie and gives it a more serious tone, creating a new kind of horror movie the world needs more of.
Mandy Lane (Amber Heard) is a high school student who was largely a social outcast during her first year. After summer vacation, she blossoms and begins to garner social and sexual interest from her male classmates. A year after a tragic pool party accident during her sophomore year, Mandy and her former best friend, Emmet (Michael Welch), are invited to a local ranch owned by her stoner classmate, Red, along with a group of other popular students for the weekend. It soon becomes perfectly clear that the males of the group see Mandy as a sexual conquest to compete over. After a mysterious cloaked assailant begins killing people one by one, Mandy and her classmates must solve the mystery of who the killer is before no one is left alive.
Directed by Jonathan Levine (50/50 and Warm Bodies) and written by Jacob Forman (The Last Survivors), the story of the film’s production and distribution is as interesting as the actual content of the film. The script was completed in 2003 when Forman was a student at the American Film Institute, and it drew inspiration from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, various works by John Hughes and the NBC series, Friday Night Lights. Levine and his cinematographer, Darren Genet, also brought on the influence of The Virgin Suicides and Dazed and Confused when it came to deciding how to depict the various teenagers of the story. It was filmed near Bastrop, Texas in 2006 with a small budget. After suffering distribution issues, such as being sold to various distribution companies and repeatedly getting shelved, it was released straight-to-video and on multiple streaming services in 2013 (almost seven years after completion). Though it has received mixed reviews as a whole, audiences have adored the film, leading it to develop a small cult following, largely made up of horror buffs.
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is one of those rare modern horror movies that allows the audience to fill in the blanks as it goes along, especially with the character traits and motivations. The majority of the characters are cut and dried, reveling in the horror cliches they occupy. From the jock to the stoner to the promiscuous one, the film embraces these character types, making it feel like a horror movie straight out of the 80’s. Not all of the characters completely embody a classic trope, though. The exception comes in the form of Mandy, who may seem like the by-the-numbers naive virgin character, but there is so much more to her than that.On the surface, there isn’t much to Mandy Lane’s character that makes her stand out from a lot of horror protagonists. Beneath that surface, though, there is a layer of complexity to her character. Due to the attention she receives from the males of the group thanks to her beauty, she has power over them that none of them realize she does. To the guys, she is someone for them all to fight over, while the other girls in the group are really just along for the ride. Getting with Mandy will make one of them the alpha male of the pack. She uses this to her advantage, giving them all the smallest inkling that they have a chance to be with her. But, her long planned scheme soon comes into play and no one in the group will know what’s coming for them.
One of my favorite aspects of of the film is how in stands out from the pack of modern horror films in its presentation. The film’s visual style very much has the feeling of a 1970’s horror film, with its cinematography and use of color correction throughout. Despite being present in many death scenes, the gore is minimal, and it’s really effective as a result; much more so than gore-fests like the Saw franchise or the Hostel series. The film sticks to its visual style in every scene, and it’s the small touches that I appreciate the most. One of my favorites is the use of yellow Solo cups during a party scene instead of the more traditional red. This detail, no matter how small it seems, really helps to keep the colors of the film consistent.
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane was delayed for far too long, and I’m glad it’s finally out in the world. The film is extremely refreshing among a deluge of generic found footage fare that seems to be quickly becoming the norm. We need more movies like All the Boys Love Mandy Lane in the horror landscape and far fewer Paranormal Activity rip-offs.