Thursday, October 16, 2014

Highschool Sweethearts

Amber Heard in All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

All The Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006, directed by Jonathan Levine) had a complicated release. Made and released in other parts of the world mid-last decade, it didn't make it to American screens until 2013 (not that this matters much to determined fans with all-region DVD players or a willingness to torrent, but still...). The film itself is manifestly American in its setting and its idiom, being a throwback to the slasher films of the 1980s, so this is doubly vexing. I doubt this did much bank elsewhere.

Note: this movie is a trickster, so if you don't like spoilers, consider yourself warned. 

The story here finds the title character lusted after by every boy in school. She's besties with Emmett, with whom she grew up after being orphaned, but she's become too much of a beauty for that friendship to stave off the probing of other interested parties. One of those interested parties is Dylan, a rich, popular kid who invites Mandy to a pool party at his house. She accepts if Emmett can attend. Emmett and Dylan quarrel over Mandy resulting in a drunken dare to jump off the roof of the house into the deep end of the pool. Dylan accepts and the jump kills him. Nine months later, Mandy is still the object of desire for every boy (and some girls, presumably) in school. Another kid, Red, is having another party at his parents' ranch and invites Mandy along. While there, Mandy meets the ranch hand, Garth, and is smitten. The other kids suddenly begin to meet gruesome fates at the hands of a shadowy murderer, who also seems to be obsessed with Mandy. Eventually, it's down to just her and Garth...

If the father of The Slasher Movie is John Carpenter, then its mother is Agatha Christie. The obvious model for this kind of film is ...And Then There Were None, which is a bottomless font from which movies flow, but it's not only that film that provides the motive force of the subgenre. Christie was an experimentalist. She liked poking and prodding and twisting the conventions of the whodunnit almost to the point of absurdity, exploring all of its possibilities: hence, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, in which the narrator himself is the murderer, or Murder on the Orient Express, in which everybody is the murderer. This sort of examination of the form of The Slasher Film starts to appear overtly with Scream (though other films--particularly giallo--are arguable forerunners).  This is the game that All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is playing. It's got a twist, you see. Its big idea is that the slasher and the final girl are in cahoots. It takes this idea even further with the introduction of Mandy Lane's lust for Garth, which changes her relationship with the murderer. It's a tricky film whose whole justification for being is as a puzzle rather than as a plot. It's not a hard puzzle or a clever puzzle. It's certainly not Sleuth or Deathtrap. In fact, apart from its willingness to experiment with the form, it's not really very good. It's filmed in a washed-out, contemporary horror griminess except when the film turns its camera on its central character. The camera is smitten with Mandy Lane, too.

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

Mandy Lane is played by Amber Heard, who has the kind of inhuman good looks that young Catherine Deneuve had (there's even a resemblance). She outshines everyone else in the cast, but like them, she's a twenty-something actress playing a teen. This is one of my pet peeves about slasher films. In truth, this film is well-made when compared with the first wave of slasher films. Certainly, for all their miscast age, the actors in this film are naturalistic. The screenplay itself does them all a disservice, though. The teenagers in this film are movie teenagers and they move through the film completely unencumbered by anyone who is a responsible adult.

Heard is the reason to see the movie. She's become a minor star. She could find exactly the right role to catapult her to superstardom. It's not out of the question. She has the "it" of a movie star. The rest? There's really only one scene in the film that made me sit up and take notice. It happens at the end of the film, when the murderer is chasing Mandy and she tumbles into the pit where Garth has been throwing the carcasses of the diseased cattle he's been shooting. This is grotesque out of all proportion to the film around it. It's a pity it waited almost until the end of the film to find its instinct for horror. The rest? Mostly rote slasher movie nonsense. You've seen this all before, twist of the tale or no.

Current Challenge tally:

Total Viewings: 9

First Time Viewings: 6

Around the Web:

Anna over at Bemused and Nonplussed  makes some hay at Chicago's Music Box of Horrors, and is giving away copies of Hidden Horror if you name your favorite horror movie.

Jose at Riding the Nightmare takes a trip under the waves with Below, on of your humble bloginatrix's favorite obscure horror movies.

Meanwhile, Eric at Expelled Grey Matter feels like he was sold a bill of goods by The Chernobyl Diaries.

Tim at The Other Side has another kind of diary on his mind, this one a Vampire Diary.

Bob at Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind has another round-up of October films, and gives us a preview of Toronto After Dark to make one salivate.

Lady Terminator Erika is Witching and Bitching.

Scott over at Blasphemous Tomes thinks that The Last Man on Earth might have Vincent Price's finest performance.

Kevin at For It Is Man's Number kisses The Devil's ass while viewing Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages.

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Morgan Champion said...

There's something wrong with the hyperlink to Blasphemous Tomes. Every time I click on it I go to the Lady Terminator blog instead.

Vulnavia Morbius said...

Whoops! Fixed.