Reviewed by Andrew Kasch
Starring Amber Heard, Anson Mount, Michael Welch, Aaron Himelstein
Directed by Jonathan Levine
It’s damn near impossible to describe the greatness of All The Boys Love Mandy Lane without making it sound completely unappealing. On the surface, it’s just another stripped-down retro slasher film with an all-teen cast getting picked off one-by-one in a remote location. The chaos revolves around title character Mandy, the popular high school dream girl adored by all who travels out to a Texas farmhouse along with a group of doting friends for some weekend debauchery. All the men are looking to shack up with Mandy, but the party is interrupted when a killer shows up at the ranch to eliminate the competition.
Proof that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, Mandy Lane takes a completely uncommercial route and winds up as the best slasher film in years. The genius lays entirely in the execution. Director Jonathan Levine grinds the oldest of movie formulas into a harsh reality and avoids a lot of the annoying B.S. we’ve come to associate with the genre. Under the body count lurks a mature film that realistically captures the social crises and general hell of teenage life. Each cast member steps into a role in the high school hierarchy – the jock, the horndog, the geek, the slut, and the jealous bitch – but each is shown in an honest light. They’re the people we knew from back when instead of those movie stereotypes we’ve come to expect, and the script wisely shows their flaws and insecurity amidst all the reckless abandon.
When the violence finally kicks in, you’ve spent enough time with the characters to make it mean something. The kills aren’t inventive or sensationalized; they’re brutal and wholly unpleasant to watch. The end result feels like a slasher via Jack Ketchum or a talented Larry Clark. Of course, since Mandy Lane has its feet so firmly grounded in the subgenre, it inevitably hits a few of those age-old cliches along with a twist ending that may turn some people off, but the pitch-perfect direction, acting, and nerve-jangling set-pieces make it easy to overlook those flaws.
One of the most interesting things about this film is how it seems to take place out of time. All traces of a contemporary look are deliberately absent. There are no hipster trends, fashion quirks, or modern day references. The soundtrack is composed of eclectic old school tunes and trippy acid music without a single iPod in sight. With raw, grainy cinematography akin to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the film could easily pass itself off as a product of the Seventies.
While the idea of another teen-oriented horror film may not excite, All The Boys Love Mandy Lane destroys all preconceived notions and succeeds as a smart and mature indie slasher with a nasty edge. Whether or not you’re a slasher fan, this one is well worth seeking out.
4 out of 5
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