All The Boys Love Mandy Lane

Director    Jonathan Levine
Starring    Amber Heard, Michael Welch, Anson Mount, Whitney Able, Aaron Himelstein
Release    25 APR (US) 15 FEB (UK)    Certificate 18
1 stars


14th February 2008

The teen slasher market is so damn saturated these days, you'd better have a hook if you want to catch my attention. It's clear from minute one that All The Boys Love Mandy Lane has nothing in its corner apart from an unfeasibly attractive lead in Amber Heard. Apparently the Weinsteins sliced and diced this picture over a year ago, but whatever they took out, it wasn't enough: sorry chaps, but hotties in peril are a dime a dozen these days - you gotta gimme something new to chew on.

Heard plays the title character, a newly blossomed girl who struts down her high school corridor (breasts first) while all sorts of unsavoury males pick their jaws up off the floor - she's part Scarlett Johansson, part Jessica Alba, part Britney. In an attempt to wrangle with the standard teen issue of acceptance (although this is a theme later deemed surplus to requirements), the film sees Mandy weakly accept an offer from the school's cool kids to stay over at a friend's deserted ranch for a debauched weekend. There, a succession of slasher stereotypes - stoner, douchebag, black guy etc. - feebly vie for her romantic attention, although when folks start turning up dead, it's clear that some are more determined to win Mandy's heart than others. Because there's nothing chicks like better than homicidal maniacs, right guys?

You rarely get time to connect with characters in slasher movies - they're never around for long enough - but the characters in Mandy Lane are stunningly one-dimensional, almost insultingly so. They're an obnoxious bunch, each one more despicable than the last and all fully deserving of the most violent deaths imaginable. Mere knife fodder they might be, but Mandy Lane herself is the worst offender. She's the worst kind of female protagonist: a doe-eyed cockteaser, she'll use any excuse to squeeze into a pair of running shorts and toss her silky blonde hair, but she's got literally nothing more to her than her looks. Personality? Forget about it. A blander character you will not find: you'll ache for a bloody, swift conclusion to the whole shebang.

Stylistically, the movie is all over the place - it's very much a case of throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks. There are very obvious visual nods towards some horror classics (the movie's film stock looks intentionally aged) but the grimy, Tobe Hooper-esque look jars with some clumsy modern editing techniques - freeze frames, over-exposed film and a saturated palette all point to a director who doesn't know what he's doing. Moreover, the movie's violence is shown in gory detail in some scenes, yet is shot sparingly in others, either hidden in cutaways or obscured in shots far too fast to digest. Find a tone and stick to it - why show us the pussy then deny us the lay?

Finally, the infuriating ending makes a mockery of all that's gone before; an unnecessary twist that exposes the film for what it really is - cheap slasher fare that's desperate to shock by any means necessary. Maybe there's a more consistent film in the edit somewhere - a slick little low-budget thriller, perhaps - but don't bother looking for it because it ain't in the cinematic cut. All The Boys Love Mandy Lane is a movie completely bereft of ideas; a slasher pic with nothing new to offer apart from another pretty face of the week in Amber Heard. It makes 88 minutes seem like a lifetime: do yourself a favour and find something better to do with your evening.

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