Saturday, December 14, 2013

Oh Mandy

Year: Who even knows?
Director: Jonathan Levine
Cast: Amber Heard, Anson Mount, Whitney Able
Run Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

A quick caveat: Because this is a slasher movie, I'm going to stomp all over spoilers here. With these films it's not really what happens but how it happens that matters. If you care about spoilers, just check out the TL;DR and come back later.

Let's discuss that whole "year" thing, shall we? All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is a slasher flick produced in 2006 that then proceeded immediately nowhere. Over years and years this film struggled to get on its feet until it finally managed to get a limited release seven years later on September 6, 2013.

Over the years, the hype has built and built because there's nothing the horror community loves more than a Little Slasher That Could. I myself have been following its progress for some months now, unfortunately missing it in theaters (C'mon, a one week release in the middle of a challenging semester? Give me a chance!) and falling into a deep depression when RedBox promised me it was in stock then proceeded to claim it never existed.

So was it all worth it?

Not at all, really. But it was OK. 

Kind of like this guy's torso.

In the grand tradition of slasher films everywhere, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane begins nine months before the main action during a terrible accident. Douchey jock Dylan (Adam Powell) is having a pool party and invites Mandy Lane (Amber Heard), a goody goody who, over the summer, has been bestowed a gift from the Puberty Fairy. 

She drags along her dorky friend Emmet (Michael Welch aka Bella's annoying friend Mike from Twilight, which is oddly prescient considering Heard's overwhelming resemblance to Kristen Stewart) who then talks Dylan into jumping into the pool from his roof to try and impress her.

It does not go well.

And it would be hard to tell if she's impressed anyway considering that she gives off about as much emotion as that chimney.

Nine months later, she is invited to a weekend ranch party (those are wild, I hear) in the middle of nowhere by some of her Meat. I mean friends.

There's Red (Aaron Himmelstein), the stoner whose family owns the ranch and is in love with Mandy Lane; Bird (Edwin Hodge, whose best known role is as the Bloody Stranger in The Purge), the obligatory black friend who is in love with Mandy Lane; his best friend Jake (Luke Grimes) who looks oddly like Harry Styles and is in love with Mandy Lane; and Garth (Anson Mount), the hot older ranch hand who against all odds is in love with Mandy Lane.

There's also Chloe (Whitney Able), the requisite coked out blonde bitch whose primary means of travel seems to be tripping; Marlin (Melissa Price), the slutty brunette who flashes her boobs at random gas station workers. And of course, Mandy Lane. Who is certainly pretty, but that doesn't make up for her deficit of any discernible human characteristics. She is a virgin. She doesn't do drugs. She has boobs.

That's about it. And she runs in slow motion a lot. Basically the film is entirely comprised of shots of Mandy Lane Baywatching around the ranch interspersed with violent deaths from time to time.

According to the filmmakers, running is an adequate substitute for personality.

So it turns out that Mandy Lane's old dorky friend Emmet is orchestrating the murders (this isn't even a spoiler because they show his face more or less immediately - an uncommon move in a slasher like this) decked out with a beanie and a shotgun.

The plot pukes along in a seemingly random and inconsistent manner, almost as if the writers were just flipping through a dictionary and incorporating whatever word they landed on into the script. The lights go out because one of the boys pulled out the fuse as a prank (even though he was clearly in the room during the outage and couldn't have done so). They send Bird to the emergency generator which is just chillin' under a tree in a field. Two teens stop their escape attempt to make out in front of the car they should be using to get the hell out of there. There's hella lesbian tension that goes nowhere. And my personal favorite exchange, when Garth laments Mandy Lane's beauty and complains that she's too young for him.
Garth: "If only you had a sister ten years older..." 
Mandy Lane: "I have a cousin! She's 21."
I know that can't possibly be what she meant but I like to imagine that Mandy Lane is actually 11 years old this whole time.

I mean, that's what I looked like when I was 11.

So there is some fun to be had in the inept corners of the plot (including a truly hilarious scene where a kid in a lake has a gun pointed at him and immediately ducks underwater like an ostrich in the sand), but at some point it all gets tangled up in the big "Why?"

It is revealed that Mandy Lane and Emmet are working together on this when she stabs Chloe. For some reason, they both have apparently committed to offing themselves right after their murder spree, but all of a sudden she changes her mind and turns on Emmet. The film tries to force her into the part of a quippy Final Girl but it just doesn't mesh considering that not two minutes ago she was knifing her friend in cold blood.

And there's loads of plot holes and loose ends, the most damning of which is "Why these people?" There is no motive for the mass murder or the suicide or Mandy Lane's eventual betrayal. The film as advertised could have been a cool story about a jealous young man offing potential romantic rivals but somewhere along the line it unraveled into the moth-ridden musty sweater of a film you see before you.

Boys will be boys, I guess.

It's actually a pretty great slasher throwback in the sense that it's not really very good at all.

The substandard production values remind me of some of the trashier Census Bloodbath entertainments in a genuinely grubby way that I haven't seen this side of Y2K. The video is all a little overexposed and washed out and the audio is about as clear as listening to music playing in somebody else's headphones from across the room.

In fact, for about half the movie I couldn't even tell what names they were calling each other and thought we were watching a film about Garp, Fred, Burt, and Marley. They didn't even half enough money for pretty boys, which is shocking but refreshing for a film from 2006. So it's all very genuinely, almost heartwarmingly bad (which is a quality I greatly admire in this sick world of intentionally bad fare) and the gore is pretty neat when it shows up.

But the most noteworthy thing about the film is Amber Heard's performance. A full two years before Twilight, she had the whole "hair twist, bite lip, blank stare" thing down pat. I swear it's like watching Bella Swan in a slasher film. Which also begs the question: We all know KStew's performance as Bella is not so great - but could it also be a rip-off?

Can a just world exist that contains two Bella Swans?

Perhaps we are better off not knowing. 

Killer: Emmet (Michael Welch)
Final Girl: Mandy Lane (Amber Heard)
Best Kill: Marlin gets a shotgun shoved in her mouth. But instead of pulling the trigger, he shoves it in deeper, crushing her windpipe and severing her jaw. Totally unexpected and cool gore.
Sign of the Times: An American Idol reference; A girl gets excited about her new belly button ring; somebody's emoticons look like this: :).
Scariest Moment: The LAKE SNAKE.
Weirdest Moment: Marlin gives Jake a handjob under a map in the backseat of a car during a conversation with their friends.
Champion Dialogue: "I admire you so. Will you protect us from the bandits?"
Body Count: 8
  1. Dylan hits his head on the edge of the pool.
  2. Jake is shot with a shotgun.
  3. Marlin's jaw is broken with a shotgun.
  4. Bird is stabbed to death.
  5. Garth is shot with a shotgun.
  6. Red is shot to death.
  7. Chloe is stabbed in the stomach.
  8. Emmet is shot and decapitated. 
TL;DR: All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is a genuinely bad slasher film, but that's what makes it fun.
Rating: 6/10
Word Count: 1437

No comments:

Post a Comment