Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and GeeksHaveGame.
Redefining the Slasher Genre
Mandy Lane (Amber Heard) becomes the most desirable girl in high school over one fateful summer; she's definitely not like the other girls her age though. While most guys want to do everything imaginable to her, she's turned them all down. The only guy she really gives the time of day is her best friend, Emmet (Michael Welch). That is until a certain incident at a pool party comes between them. Now nine months later, Mandy has distanced herself from Emmet and has a group of new friends. These friends have decided to invite Mandy to a ranch out in the middle of nowhere for a few days and the guys who tag along hope to accomplish what, up to this point, has been impossible. But when people begin to turn up missing, they soon realize that they're not alone and someone is taking their obsession with Mandy Lane a little too far.
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane was like an urban myth for the longest period of time. The film debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2006 and released in the UK in 2008. It seemed to be released in every country other than the US shortly thereafter and it took another excruciating five years since it didn’t debut stateside until October of 2013. For a film that was originally shot in 2006, taking seven years to finally see distribution is bizarre and disheartening.
The horror film originally caught the eye of The Weinstein Company immediately after debuting at TIFF, but the Weinstein brothers couldn’t come to a decision regarding its release (Harvey wanted a wide theatrical distribution while Bob thought the “artsy” film deserved more of a limited release). Rights to the film were eventually sold to a German company called Senator Entertainment US, who released the film in Germany and Austria and had the intention of premiering the film in the US. But the US branch of Senator Entertainment US went under in 2009 and rights to the film were dead in the water until The Weinstein Company reacquired distribution rights in 2013. The film was released on demand on September 6th with a limited theatrical run October 11th the same year.
The crew for the film consisted of college students freshly graduated from the American Film Institute. Producer Chad Feehan had the film as his thesis during college as work on the project initially began in 2003. Written by Jacob Forman and directed by Jonathan Levine (50/50, Warm Bodies), the film garnered an unbelievable amount of positive buzz online that accumulated into this massive pile of insurmountable expectations. Reading about the film for so long and hearing about how good it was from the biggest of horror sites probably inadvertently hurt the film more than it escalated interest for it.
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane takes a Dazed and Confused approach to the first half of the film. Similar to how Wolf Creek had you swimming through 45-minutes of character development before the actual horror began (or how Hatchet was silly for the same amount of time before diving into awesome practical gore effects), All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is mostly high school kids getting into typical teenager shenanigans; drinking alcohol, doing drugs, and having sex. The second half of the film is pure horror and is essentially a slasher film. The horror is teased at first with little glimpses of terror before diving right back into high school mode, but the film is able to intensify its sense of dread to the point where it’s eventually beautifully horrific in every scene.
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For a film that is made by first time filmmakers for less than $1 million, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane has beautiful cinematography. Vivid colors jump off the screen and seem even lusher once the film begins to cover itself in mud and dirt. Cinematographer Darren Genet has an eye for dynamic angles and utilizing when to focus and blur menacing figures in the background (or foreground) for maximum impact.
The film also has a tendency to overlap shots in order to create an entirely new image, which can probably be contributed to the talent of film editor Josh Noyes (The Wackness). These impressive filming techniques shine brightest when Bird (Edwin Hodge) is on-screen; when he goes to start the generator after the power goes out, when he confronts the killer, and the car chase. Like other successful film genres, horror can often become formulaic not only when it comes to its writing or how its acted but how it’s shot. It’s always a breath of fresh air when you can say a film is unique in some capacity; especially horror.
With Michael Welch mostly being associated with portraying popular high school student Mike Newton in the Twilight franchise, your expectations for a memorable performance from Welch in All the Boys Love Mandy Lane are probably fairly low. Around the time Mandy Lane was in peak hype mode, Welch was in the abysmal Day of the Dead remake. Directed by Steve Miner (Halloween H20) and also starring Nick Cannon, Day of the Dead is an atrocious remake (but maybe 2018’s remake Day of the Dead: Bloodline is worse). However, Welch’s portrayal of Emmet in Mandy Lane is exceptional. His performance, especially during the closing moments of the film, is captivating. He has this American Psycho quality to his psychotic behavior that is hauntingly mesmerizing.
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane puts a different spin on the slasher film that would have had way more of an impact had it originally been released ten years ago instead of five. The film does require patience from the audience as the film takes a slow and steady approach to its eventual slasher nature. While the outcome is likely fairly predictable, watching how everything unfolds in Mandy Lane is where it shines. The ending is the film’s crown jewel and even though the killer is revealed its open ending suits the film’s already ambiguous nature.
Now that All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is readily available at your fingertips, its originality seemed much more promising when it felt like it was the holy grail of horror films (kind of like The Poughkeepsie Tapes). The film’s consistency to offer a slasher that cuts in a different direction than most horror films along with Michael Welch’s brilliantly unbalanced performance makes All the Boys Love Mandy Lane a worthwhile experience.
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is currently free to stream on Amazon if you have Starz with Prime Video Channels. It’s also currently available to rent via Amazon Video ($2.99), Vudu ($2.99), and iTunes ($3.99). The film can be purchased on DVD ($9.91) and Multi-Format Blu-ray ($12.99) on Amazon and is even cheaper on eBay (the Blu-ray is available for $8.99 and the DVD is $7.98, both have free shipping).
© 2018 Chris Sawin