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All The Boys Love Mandy Lane

July 31, 2007

Yes it’s gonna be a cold, lonely summer…

image courtesy of rottentomatoes.com

There is a tide in the affairs of man, the Bard wrote, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true, and often life pans out poorly, bound in shallows and miseries, if you Will. We must, we’re told, take the current when it serves. And so, yes, sometimes things work out, but mostly they suck, mostly they fall flat on the ground and disappoint us immensely. Never is this more apparent, for culture vultures such as ourselves, than when we invest a couple or more hours sat in front of a truly crap movie. We hand our hard-earned cash over, we take time out, we sit in the dark…and we are thoroughly discouraged as we emerge into the light, blinking and blinking annoyed by what’s been served up before us.

 

Consider, however, the same feelings, only massively magnified, for yer average Horror/Thriller/Fright fan. The proportion of poor to good movies in these genres is something truly extraordinary to behold. Ever since watching the old Bela Lugosi Dracula as a kid I’ve searched for that elusive treat, the horror film that genuinely delivers. And it is an almost fruitless quest, let me tell you. That tiny handful of diamonds in the rough, a Night of the Demon here, a Dead of Night there, does not a fulfilled cinematic life make. For every Exorcist there’s a hundred Screams, for every Ringu there’s a thousand Slithers…it really is a thankless task. One might almost be tempted to give up the chase were it not for the possibility of finding that one shining gem hidden in the mire. I remember seeing The Innocents one sunny Saturday afternoon and being scared out of my wits by its creepy beauty; these things exist, it’s just finding them, and not getting disillusioned by the near-overwhelming tsunami of trex that’s out there.

Which is why All The Boys Love Mandy Lane, the UK Premier of which I saw a couple of days ago, needs special mention. Mandy is a gift to those of us who have made that journey, a treat for all those who’ve sat through the countless Fridays, the Elm Streets, the I Knows, the Hallowe’en sequels…this is our moment; this is our perfect moment.

Schoolgirl Mandy Lane (Amber Heard) is loved by everyone. Not just the boys, but everyone. Not just the geeks who worship her, or the jocks who want to get with her, but everyone. She exudes an effortless charm and ease, and yet she’s ultimately unattainable, unknowable. Even the bitchy, slutty Heathers-a-like want to know her; she’s on a pedestal, but not of her own making, she’s different, but she walks among the mortals. And they love her for it. Mandy smiles and talks to them all, but so far she’s let no-one in.

There she is boys, Mandy Lane. Untouched, pure. Since the dawn of junior year men have tried to possess her, and to date all have failed. Some have even died in their reckless pursuit of this angel.

Mandy wants to be a part, not apart, and so, in the perfect instance of plot set-up, she accepts an invitation to the ranch of one of the members of her school’s Alpha group; beautiful rich kids, hedonistic, loved up, drug-fuelled, boozy and horny. She says no to the Js and shotgunning the Bud, she politely brushes off the overt sexual advances of the boys:

Bird: You know we are all trying to get you right?
Mandy: Get me?
Bird: Get with you. But here’s the deal, I’m not like the other guys

Yeah, right. But Mandy doesn’t express it so cynically; she just smiles that smile.

And then, as the night comes around, and the others start to bitch and get wasted, there are fall-outs and storm outs. And some people don’t come back from their moody exits; some people get cut to ribbons.

The slasher scenario is perfectly choreographed, then, the crew (the stoner, the jock, the dick, the bitch, the slut, the hero, the heroine) are all assembled; what’s so different? Well, with Mandy Lane, the difference is that this isn’t some po-mo smug-a-thon with smartass cultural references; the stereotypes are gradually rounded out so that – dammit – you actually start to give a shit about them, and more importantly – bizarrely – there’s no real hiding of the perpetrator. This isn’t a cheap throwback to the pants slice ‘n dice movies of the 80s, this is its own thing. Conventions are set up, you’re kidded into thinking down a certain route and then, without realising it, you’ve gone somewhere else. Oh boy, have you gone somewhere else. For the last quarter of an hour, though, you won’t really mind where the film takes you, or that you’ve underestimated it, because you’ll be enjoying the ride so much. There are some crazy, bloody clever deviations here, some neat tilts back and forth that bugger up with your sense of expectation, and some extraordinarily beautiful cinematography thrown in as a huge bonus (one sequence, with a grim drama being played out before a background of stop-frame forked lightning against a slate grey sky is just stunning). And, at the very end – as I willed them to take the road less travelled towards a conclusion – I almost punched the air when they delivered the most satisfying ending I’ve ever seen in a horror film.

I’m a boy, and I loved Mandy Lane:


image courtesy of Occupant Films

I’ll see you in the sunlight
I’ll hear your voice everywhere
I’ll run to tenderly hold you
but Mandy you won’t be there…

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 31, 2007 1:52 pm

    Hm so. I don’t like horror films, but I very much like the look of that Mandy Lane girl. (All the boys do, right?) What to do, what to do…

  2. July 31, 2007 6:05 pm

    Thanks for dropping by, John. Mandy Lane is a terrific movie that plays with certain conventions and then balls them up and plays its own game.

    You wouldn’t have to be a horror fan to enjoy it.

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