Saturday, June 15, 2013

30 Days of Nightmares #15: ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE (2009)

The Story: One reviewer describes it as "THE O.C. meets FRIDAY THE 13TH."  I guess that's as good a logline as any. 

Expectations: I first heard about this film a few years ago, and I was immediately intrigued.  The film was apparently made in 2006, and received some pretty enthusiastic reviews for an indie horror film, but yet it had not been able to land a U.S. distributor.   It seems to me that in this day and age, a horror movie has to be pretty bad to avoid getting picked up by one of the dozens of small-scale distributors.  There are plenty of releasing companies that will happily buy a relatively slick-looking product for the right (low) price... and ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE appeared to be a slick-looking product.  So what gives?

Flash forward to 2013.  Amber Heard has made a name for herself with appearances in THE INFORMERS (panned by critics, but I liked it), John Carpenter's THE WARD, THE RUM DIARY, and the Nic Cage laugh-fest DRIVE ANGRY.  Maybe that's why MANDY LANE has now found a U.S. distributor.  It's due out in August, but I confess I couldn't wait.  I turned to Youtube, because... well... let's be honest... All the boys love Amber Heard.

Reaction: This movie is exactly what it promises to be.  A slickly produced, surprisingly well-edited slasher movie.  With a twist.  I won't spoil the twist (it's easy enough to see it coming once you get started), but I will theorize that it's probably the reason that the film went so long without a U.S. distributor. 

The tag line sets up the story: "Everyone is dying to be with her.  Someone is killing for it."  Based on this, I was expecting something like CARRIE in reverse -- a film about the frightening power wielded by a beautiful girl.  Something like GINGER SNAPS, TEETH, JENNIFER'S BODY... all films that I enjoyed.  The comparison to JENNIFER'S BODY is especially apt, because the filmmakers of MANDY LANE fetishize Amber Heard even more than the makers of JENNIFER'S BODY fetishized Megan Fox.  Ogling her is perhaps the main reason the movie exists.  The horror story seems secondary. 

The filmmakers do start getting their hands dirty in the last twenty minutes or so, but I feel like there's a disconnect between the hauntingly lyrical study of the leading lady and the annoyingly familiar "ten little indians" slasher movie scenario.  The opportunity to tell a real story is neglected in favor of run-of-the-mill slasherisms.   Beautifully shot slasherisms, but still.

Most Nightmare-Worthy Moment: For me, this movie never gets any better than the opening sequence, where a drunk teenage jock practically sacrifices himself to the beauty of Mandy Lane.  It's not an intentional sacrifice, but it made me think that intentional sacrifices would follow.  The film implies a question that's genuinely tantalizing: Just how far is the average teenage guy willing to go to win the affections of a beautiful girl?  It's disappointing that the film is not actually about any guy's internal debate over that question, or about Mandy Lane's debate over how she should wield such power.   The answers are foregone conclusions. 

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