Looking Back at 2010s Films: All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2013)

14 Oct

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By Tanner Smith

“All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” is a horror slasher film that is best known for its long-awaited release. It generated a ton of positive buzz at festivals in 2006, including TIFF and SXSW, and then…the studio that bought the rights decided not to release it for some reason. (Damn it, Weinsteins.) Then after it had already had a UK release long before, it was already released briefly in limited theaters before hitting VOD and DVD in late 2013 (thus barely making it qualify for my series of Looking Back at 2010s Films). And then the film that garnered a ton of good press at these festivals didn’t seem so special, with many reviews that said there’s hardly anything special about it apart from the gritty, grindhouse-like cinematography is top-notch.

What do I think of it? Well, at first, I didn’t think it was anything too special (though the cinematography was pretty nifty)…but that didn’t stop me from revisiting it again a few more times on Netflix. Much of the reason I like to watch it again has to do with the ending (which I’ll get into in a moment).

The film is well-directed, by Jonathan Levine. This was Levine’s first film, and while it’s a shame his debut got shelved for seven years, I am glad he made three well-received films (“The Wackness,” “50/50,” “Warm Bodies”) while waiting for this one to get released. By the time most of us got to see “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane,” we already knew it’d be well-directed. It’s well-acted, from actors who’d go on to other things in the waiting, including Amber Heard, Michael Welch, Whitney Able, Edwin Hodge, and Luke Grimes (who I’ll always know as Enoch from “War Eagle, Arkansas”–Fifty Shades of what?). But what did throw a lot of people off upon seeing it for the first time in 2013 was that up until the ending, it’s…well, let’s be honest, just another horror slasher film–a bunch of teens go partying at a secluded farmhouse, try to get their hookups, drink, do drugs, and then get slaughtered by an unknown psycho. (Though, unlike most modern horror films, it was shot on film and given a gritty aesthetic that calls back to horror films of the ’70s.) So why did it get all that hot buzz at festivals? I think it has to do with the ending and what the film means in hindsight–that’s why I revisited it myself. It seems like a teenage coming-of-age story disguised as a slasher film–it’s like “Dazed and Confused” meets “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.”

The “Mandy Lane” in the title refers a high-school girl (Amber Heard) who was very awkward before she blossomed over the summer. Now, every guy wants her and, as evidenced in an opening scene, will do anything for her. Some guys invite her to a ranch out in the country, and some other guy starts to kill them one-by-one. Is there some kind of connection between the killings and Mandy Lane? Is she next?

SPOILER ALERT!!!!

Mandy was a social outcast before every jerk on campus wanted to sleep with her. When her friend Emmet (Michael Welch) convinced one of them to jump off a roof to impress her, Mandy started to realize the lengths these jackasses would go to for her. Watching the film again, a few looks she gives early in the film actually did hint that she was more devious than she was letting on (it’s also hinted that she had a messed-up childhood, though it’s not really explained). In the end, it all turns out that this night was part of a murder-suicide pact, with Emmet enacting all the murders of the partygoers, most of which were guys who were trying to one-up each other for the alpha-male position in attempts to seduce Mandy. They’re all like predators…only they didn’t realize Mandy was the predator, manipulating everyone’s emotions, both the guys’ and the girls’, everyone who thought they had a chance at scoring with her, getting her to try some other things, etc. But when Mandy and Emmet reunite, she realizes that Emmet did all this for her, showing her that he’s no better than the rest of them. So, Emmet dies, while Mandy survives, with the local farmhand, Garth (Anson Mount), getting her out of there…and it seems she can control his emotions too.

Seeing the film again with that knowledge made it more interesting, as I realize there’s more on this film’s mind than graphic violence (there isn’t even that much gore to be found). It actually captures both male and female insecurities (guys trying to one-up each other, girls’ body issues) in a unique way that could actually speak well and directly to high-school teens. The characters aren’t bad people; they’re just dumb, naive, insecure high-school kids, which makes their tale all the more tragic.

“All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” deserved more than it got. It definitely didn’t deserve to spend seven years on the shelf, when all the studio execs could’ve done was sit on it for a little bit, rather than let their minds be influenced by a negative test screening…ONE negative test screening…did they forget all the positive press from some of the highest-ranking film festivals in the country??

Again, nice move, Weinsteins.

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