Quick Thoughts: ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE (2006)

In light of the oft-sought after 2006 slasher flick All the Boys Love Mandy Lane finally getting a release on VOD circuits, I've decided to share my thoughts on this film that caused quite a stir at film festivals then "vanished (notice the quotation marks) for a good seven years. 

ATBLML initially lured me in with its premise of an old school slasher set at an isolated ranch as a group of teenagers  begin getting slaughtered with the apple of everyone's eye, beautiful Mandy Lane, somehow at the center of it all. This is directed by Johnathan Levine, who's most famous for the recent successful rom-com-zom Warm Bodies. Anyone expecting the same kind of cheeky good times in this movie is going to be in for a rude awakening, because Mandy Lane turned out to be something even a slasher nut like myself wasn't expecting.

If you take a look at a sizable chunk of the indie slasher movies that have seen a release in the past decade or so, most of them boldly proclaim "In the spirit fo the great '70s/'80s slashers." And most of them are terrible. You won't see that kind of promotion on this poster, yet All the Boys Love Mandy Lane feels more like a '70s-style slice 'n' dice than most other throwback slashers. But not your typical '70s slahser; no, this movie reminded me a lot of when the slasher movie was going through its awkward puberty years before Halloween set the formula in stone. 

For one thing, not a whole lot of attention is paid towards the kills. There are some great death scenes in this movie (like one character enduring a throat full of gun barrel, and another geting slashed across the eyes), but unlike typical slasher throwbacks, the kills aren't at the forefront. The movie mainly focuses on atmosphere and characters. The atmosphere in this movie is, to put it lightly, top-notch. This is one of the most surreal slashers I've seen in ages, thanks to the beautiful cinemtography which makes the day scenes overly bright with harsh sunlight and the night scenes dark and very creepy. There's also the really jumpy editing, which I usually hate, but found myself liking more and more, and the phenomenal soundtrack comprised of both older and newer songs, most of them being almost unbearably melancholic pop numbers.

The film's other focus, the characters, is also one of its downfalls and part of the reason I'm labeling this movie as "good, not great." All subtleties aside, they're pretty much all bitches and dicks. To the movie's credit, they're all very entertaining bitches and dicks, but I wouldn't have minded seeing some likable protagonists go up against this killer. There are a few exceptions, though. Amber Heard was a stand-out as the gorgeous but quiet Mandy Lane, and I also really liked Edwin Hodge's performance as Bird, the black guy who craftily avoids being a token black guy and is probably the most likable teen at the ranch. Of course, I can't go without mentioning Anson Mount as the badass ranch-hand Garth. Thats not to say that all of the other actors did poorly; actually, this is one of the best casts I've seen in a modern low-budget slasher. It's the writing that makes these people unrelatable. If you love lots of dialogue centered around sex, you'll have a ball (see what I did there?). Me, I found it a little grating, even thought there are some good bits of writing in it.

Overall, I recommend this movie. It starts off on the well-traveled path (it even includes an eighties-esque prank-gone-wrong type scenario that, sadly, really has little to do with the rest of the movie) and then gradually strays from that path as it goes on. I found myself continually muttering "Wait...that's not supposed to happen," and that's a good thing. It may take more than one viewing to fully appreciate what this one is going for, but with its above-average actors and actresses, brutal kills (very much in the spirit of seventies exploitation), jamming soundtrack, exceptional location (they really use the ranch setting for all it's worth), and gorgeous camerawork, chances are, there's something you'll like in here. Granted, I wasn't too keen on the final twist, and sometimes the film's attempts at doing something different didn't work out that well, but this is still a fine example of a modern horror film done right and one that's long overdue for a US release.

Yes, I don't love Mandy Lane, but that doesn't mean we can't be friends.

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