Hey there, I’m Jared. I have 726 movies and shows in my Instant Queue and that’s just way too many. I’m going to slowly work my way through my queue until there’s nothing left, one movie at a time. But, I’m also thinking of you and your unwieldy queue and all the movies you want to watch but no longer have the time to now that you’ve become so awesome and popular. Let me know what has been gathering digital dust in your Netflix Instant library and I’ll watch that too. Let’s get to it!
What’s the movie? All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006)
What’s it rated? Rated R for a grimy grindhouse aesthetic, some unsubtle nods to Columbine and a bovine mass grave.
Did people make it? Written by Jacob Forman. Directed by Jonathan Levine. Acted by Amber Heard, Anson Mount, Whitney Able, Michael Welch, Edwin Hodge, Aaron Himelstein, Luke Grimes and Melissa Price.
What’s it like in one sentence? Heathers meets a late ’70’s slasher flick with just a dash of The Virgin Suicides.
Why did you watch it? This column has been on a bit of a lengthy hiatus due to my new job (film programmer at a movie theater) and my lifestyle (lazy, hungry and then lazy again), but now I’m ready to bring this bad boy back for the new year. I figured the best way to do that would be to start off with something I was looking forward to seeing in order to get me energized about the column again.
What’s it about in one paragraph? Mandy Lane is a good girl. Polite, unassuming and spends most of her time with her best friend Emmet. When Mandy and Emmet are invited to a cool kid party and Emmet talks the high school quarterback into jumping off the roof into a pool, something terrible happens that changes their friendship forever. Jump to nine months later and Mandy is invited to another party at a remote cattle ranch: one that’s going to be totally killer. Or at least somewhat deadly. Possibly gruesome. Fuck, I don’t know! You watch it!
Play or remove from my queue? I’m sure you know the story, but in case a bit of a recap is necessary: Jonathan Levine made this movie back in 2006, but Senator Entertainment, who had recently acquired the film from The Weinstein Company, went bankrupt right out of the gate. For seven long years All The Boys Love Mandy Lane sat on a shelf gathering dust like SuperTed or that Jerry Lewis concentration camp movie. Now, during those years on the shelf Mandy Lane, much like the character herself, built up an almost mythical status in horror film circles as a lost classic that would have changed the genre for decades much like Scream or Saw did, for better or worse. All The Boys Love Mandy Lane, wrapped in its unseen mystery, became equal parts The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Chupacabra and Unicorn. That is, until The Weinstein’s RADiUS-TWC reacquired it last year and gave it a minimal theatrical release. Now it’s in Redboxes and Netflixes galore and you have an almost perverse amount of ways to consume this film.
With that said, I would play the hell out of this one as long as the hype hasn’t already destroyed it for you. Because, the thing is, Mandy Lane is a good little slasher flick. It’s solid, dependable and sturdy like a Chevy S10 or a really trustworthy adult diaper. The one thing it’s not is the second coming of horror or some lost gem the world never would have been the same without. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve wanted to see this movie for seven years and I’m certainly glad I got to, but that is way too much pressure to put on a movie that just wants to entertain you, nothing more, nothing less.
Jonathan Levine and Amber Heard have both become much more well known commodities since the filming of Mandy Lane, with Levine doing excellent work on The Wackness, 50/50 and, to a lesser extent, Warm Bodies. Heard has seemed poised on the brink of the A-list for awhile with films like Zombieland, Pineapple Express and The Rum Diary, but she tends to get her meatier roles in direct-to-video crap like Syrup and The Joneses. Her titular role in this probably won’t do her any favors because Mandy Lane is a blank slate and Amber Heard imbues her with an almost otherworldly disconnect that people might mistake for stiffness or disinterest. To get into that I’m going to need to get into the third-act twist, so here’s your warning…..
I think a big reason Mandy Lane has the reputation that it does is because of that twist and deservedly so, even though perceptive movie nerds will see it coming from pretty far away. We learn fairly early on that Emmet has followed Mandy and all the popular kids out to the ranch and is killing them off one at a time. I suppose in the land of film rules this makes sense because he’s an outcast, is bullied and even his best friend Mandy isn’t speaking with him anymore. Plus, he’s actually wearing an outfit uncomfortably similar to that of Dylan Klebold during the Columbine massacre just in case you weren’t picking up what this film gingerly setting down.
In the climax, Emmet is chasing Chloe (Able) towards the ranch house with a car. Chloe sees Mandy standing by the house and starts running towards her. When Chloe reaches her, Mandy pulls out a knife and very gently stabs her in the stomach, holds her close and shushes her while laying her down to die. Apparently Emmet and Mandy have a pact to murder everyone and then commit suicide together only, when the time comes for her to die, she changes her mind, saves the hunky ranch hand and kills Emmet.
Honestly, the twist works upon a second viewing if you watch her behavior since she never quite sells being scared shitless that her friends are being killed. She is still acting calm and weirdly detached from everything. Almost like she’s a little slow or something. When Mandy and Emmet are fighting to the death in a muddy mass grave of cows, Emmet screams something like “I did it all for you” and Mandy says the cruelest thing you can say to someone in love with you…”Let’s just be friends.” They planned the entire thing together for what seems like a very long time, but because we don’t know a single thing about Mandy it doesn’t come across as shocking or gut-punchy as the twist could have with a little more character development.
I’m of two minds about it. On the one hand, since Mandy is such an enigma, the power of her killing Chloe is lessened and the twist sort of hangs there, allowing you to appreciate it without being effected by it. On the other hand, the unknowable evil of Mandy is pretty haunting when you think about it in retrospect. All we know about her is that her parents died when she was a child. Did she see them die and that fucked her up? Did she kill them? It could have been a moment later in life, like when Emmet had the jock scream Mandy’s name before jumping off the roof and dying. Did that sort of devotion make Mandy become addicted to other’s adulation of her? The fact that the film leaves you with interesting questions instead of a big “Go fuck yourself, movie” after the twist (I’m looking at you, High Tension), must mean that some part of me appreciates the ambiguity of unknowable human evil.
I think she chose to save the ranch hand and kill Emmet because the ranch hand’s trauma from fighting in a war connected with her somehow. I don’t think she did it because Anson Mount is handsome in a rangy, cow poke kinda way. She saw a bit of the brokenness she feels in herself. When they’re driving away at the end and Mount looks at Mandy and says “You saved me,” she smiles in such a way that seems closer to a prideful “Goddamned right I did” instead of a terrified “We saved each other” kind of look. And for a brief moment, Mount looks a little scared of her. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it.
Regardless of the thematic intent or the subtext involved, the film is a perfectly paced bit of nastiness that will stand the test of time as a damned enjoyable little teenage slasher flick. Jonathan Levine directs with such an effortless assurance it’s easy to forgive him some of the sloppier moments. He’s one to watch and I know he gained some serious cred with the wonderful 50/50 and with the fun but forgettable Warm Bodies, but it feels like he’s got a masterpiece in him that’s about to burst.
How’s the music? The score by Mark Schulz is so unobtrusive that I honestly can’t remember a single theme from it, but the soundtrack with records by The Go-Go’s, Peaches and Bobby Vinton is classic. Very, very well done music supervision for this film.
What does Netflix say I’d like if I like this? Serial Killing 101 (I love Thomas Haden Church but this looks like garbage), Evil Remains (I have a bit of a man crush on Daniel Gillies right now, so I might watch this), Borderline Cult (I’m gonna pass), Texas Chainsaw 3-D ( I know it’s gonna be garbage but I’m a fucking completest, so…) and The Telling (starring two of Hef’s lady friends. I think I’ll sit this one out).
Do you have an interesting fun-fact? Amber Heard didn’t hang out with her cast members during the shooting of the film in order to keep that strange distance Mandy has with them organic. I guess good on her for putting in the extra effort, but it also seems like a bit of a lack of imagination on her part.
What is Netflix’s best guess for Jared? 3.6
What is Jared’s best guess for Jared? 3.5
Can you link to the movie? I sure can!
Any last thoughts? All the Boys Love Mandy Lane has some flaws, but overall it’s well worth your time and couch energy. It’s damned entertaining and one of the better teen thrillers made in the last 10 or 15 years. Just keep your expectations in check and don’t plan on naming your kids after it or some shit.
Did you watch anything else this week? Outrage, Big Bad Wolves, Some Velvet Morning, Journey to the West. All kinds of shit. I’ve also been finishing up the last season of Pushing Daisies which is a lot of fun but also a little exhausting.
Any spoilerish thoughts about last week’s film? You know, it’s been so long I think we should start over fresh. I promise I will try to do better.
Next Week? I don’t think I’m going to go in the order of my queue like I was planning. It’s way too restrictive and I like to keep thinks loose. I say we choose between As I Lay Dying, Dark Horse, American Mary or Sexy Evil Genius? Plus, you guys know you can throw out ideas as well.