Remember All the Boys Love Mandy Lane? No? Maybe? Sounds a little familiar? You probably didn’t see it, unless you were one of the lucky few that were able to catch it as it was doing the festival circuit back in 2006 and 2007. Yes, you read that correctly. This flick is 6 years old, and hasn’t seen a real release yet. At least not in the U.S. How the hell does this happen? you may be asking. At the very least, it should have gotten dumped on dvd, a la Trick ‘r Treat, right? Well, this film has a history. It was picked up for distribution by The Weinstein Company, but for some reason, they decided not to release it. It was then sold to Senator Entertainment, which folded prior to the film’s release, leaving it in the middle of nowhere. As much buzz as it generated in the early days, this movie is the victim of rare and strange circumstances that resulted in it literally falling through the cracks and just hanging out in movie limbo.
So how did I come to see it? Well, after waiting and waiting and trying to be patient, I finally got a bug up my ass a couple of weeks ago (that phrase looks really strange in print, by the way), threw a tantrum because “goddamnit, I want to see this movie” and bought the U.K. version instead. If you own or have access to a region free dvd player (sometimes, independent video stores will rent them out), you might want to try to track this one down. It’s worth your time. Probably won’t blow your mind (festival buzz + no release tends to = big hype generator), but it is a quality little flick that plays with some really common horror conventions in a clever way.
But let’s backtrack: Mandy Lane (Amber Heard) is the most desirable girl in school. Beautiful, sweet and a little shy, her entire class is infatuated with her (hence the title). This is all new to her, though. When the film opens, we learn that Mandy had just gotten hot over the summer, and (like the best goddesses) hasn’t really realized it or really knows what to do with it. She is invited to join the popular kids for a weekend at a secluded ranch. The girls are comfortable enough with Mandy joining their circle, and every male on the trip is vying for Mandy’s attention (and panties). The weekend kicks off as one would expect – with lots of boozing. Before long, we learn that Mandy and her new circle of friends are not the only ones at the ranch, as a shadowy figure begins picking them off, one by one.
Yes, it sounds pretty familiar. But trust me – it’s not what you expect. This film works because it takes common slasher tropes and uses them to build tension. You’ve seen this film a hundred times before, but this time, you’re looking through a different lens. And this is where it shines. It plays with commonplace gimmicks that have been done to death in other films, but by choosing to acknowledge and subvert them rather than just play them per usual, this film offers up something entirely different.
One of my favorite examples of this subversion is the characterization. One of the most common failures in horror is shitty character development. Especially in lazy slasher flicks. The writers get so caught up in getting our group of teens out to whatever isolated location so that the killing can commence, that they never bother giving us more than the most basic overview of who these people are. Which not only makes the characters one-dimensional, but it also tends to make them assholes. In Mandy Lane, our group of friends are most definitely assholes, but not because of bad writing. These people were written TO BE ASSHOLES. And not the charming kind, either. This group of friends is totally worthless. But the important part is that they are supposed to be – none of this is accidental.
While the strength of Mandy Lane is in the way it plays with convention, it’s not self-aware. It’s never breaking the fourth wall or winking at the audience to let you know that it’s in on the joke too. There is no joke. It’s simply playing with your expectations to deliver something unexpected. Taking the common and weaving it into something new. Like I said earlier – you’ve seen this movie before. Just not in this light.
It’s really unfortunate that such a cool film didn’t see the release we were hoping for. And not really through anyone’s fault. I’d love to get up on my soapbox and bash the distributors, but in actuality, it really seems like this film might just be the victim of tragic circumstances. It’s too bad. If the opportunity presents itself, you should definitely jump on it (or you could always throw a little bitch-fit like I did). And maybe someday, we’ll all luck out and somebody will swoop in and give it the release and the attention that it deserves.