Short Ends and Leader

'All the Boys Love Mandy Lane' Was (Almost) Worth the Wait

We have certain expectations within the genre and Levine lets them slip by, with only an occasional comment.


All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

Director: Jonathan Levine
Cast: Amber Heard, Michael Welch, Whitney Able, Anson Mount
Rated: R
Studio: The Weinstein Company
Year: 2006
US date: 2013-10-13 (General release)
Website
Trailer

Whenever a movie has been sitting on the shelf, unreleased, for several years, one of two realities is usually the explanation why. First, the film is awful. It's an affront to cinema. The studio that made it senses that it will be savaged by critics and ignored by most of the movie going populace, and so they lock it away in a vault hoping that (a) everyone involved will forget about it, (b) there's no talent contract clause mandating an obligatory release and (c) that at some point, if A and B aren't true, they can find a way to bring it out so that it will do the least amount of damage to their reputation and basic bottom line. Nine times out of ten this is usually the rationale. Then there are those film which fall into the category we like to call "Musical Distributors." It's a goofy game played by people with more ambition than cold hard cash, and the end result usually winds up looking a lot like All The Boys Love Mandy Lane.

Way back in 2006 (that's more than seven years ago!) Jonathan Levine unveiled his deconstruction of the slasher film to festival audiences in Toronto, Stiges, and South by Southwest. Widely praised, it became the subject of a bidding war with Harvey Weinstein and his company winning out. After a horrible test screening which saw focus group audiences more or less reject the film, the mogul sold his interest to Senator Entertainment. They soon went out of business. The rights then lagged and Levine went off to direct such films as The Wackness, 50/50, and the ZomRomCom (zombie romantic comedy) Warm Bodies. Then, wouldn't you know it, Harvey and his hefty checkbook came back, repurposed the picture, and is now preparing to dump it during the always suspect early Fall.

Even with a wealth of positive reviews behind it (it's been out everywhere else in the world for years), All the Boys Love Mandy Lane could never fully live up to its legend. The hype, so thick and furious from those who saw its festival run (or who've since witnessed it on import DVD and Blu-ray) could only create a scenario by which the movie ultimately fails. Needless to say, Levine has done better (Bodies) and worse (sorry, but The Wackness was just...whack) with this intriguing attempted reinvention of a horror archetype falling somewhere in the middle, more good than bad. On the positive side, the director gets fine performances from his cast, including a having-since-gone-on-to-bigger-if-not-necessarily-better-things Amber Heard, and the storyline does keep us guessing. On the other hand, this is not the macabre revelation everyone makes it out to be. It's no Cabin in the Woods, or Zombieland.

Instead, we have the story of Mandy Lane (Ms. Heard), a pretty girl who is more or less an outsider at her school. One night, she and her best friend Emmet (Michael Welch) attend a party where a classmate dies. Grief stricken, Mandy cuts off all ties to her past and starts hanging with the popular crowd. Months later, she is invited to another get together on a friend's (Aaron Himelstein) father's ranch. There, they run into a red herring hired hand (Anson Mount) and a bunch of their so-called drinking and drugging buddies. Without warning, the party guests start dying one by one and it appears that the killer has a particular affinity for Mandy. While shooting and stabbing the rest of the group, the unknown assailant leaves her more or less unharmed - that is, until his or her true intentions are discovered.

For the most part, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is no different than dozens of unseen stalker efforts, only this time, Levine (working from a script by newcomer Jacob Forman) adds his own unique perspective to the standard scary movie beats. We are supposed to suspect everyone, including our heroine, and the filmmaker does little to dissuade us in that regard. Better still, the level of obvious female aggrandizement (read: the sexualization of Mandy) makes for a real feeling of dread. We sense that our heroine might be one miscalculation away from being assaulted, or worse, and yet All the Boys Love Mandy Lane never sinks to that level of lewdness. Instead, Levine uses his directing skill to put our lead up on a precarious pedestal, and then does everything he can to knock her down.

In fact, one of the most intriguing things about this film is how the director applies objectification and all its non-PC proponents as a direct commentary on the genre he's working within. We aren't supposed to see Mandy as a victim. Instead, she's an over-sex slice of seduction who should inspire such splatter and blood spilling. Levine turns the character into a cause, a catalyst, and in the end, a complaint, a spoiled part of an equally rotten high school culture that values the vain and empty and bullies the smart and the empathetic. When we learn what exactly is going on, when we see that someone is not who they claim to be and that circumstances were not really playing out in a similar fashion, we may feel a bit cheated, but that's the beauty of All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. We have certain expectations within the genre and Levine lets them slip by, with only an occasional comment.

And yet, the end result feels less like a revelation and more like a rewrite. We don't get a sense of the movie resetting horror in the year 2013 (or 2006, for that fact). While Levine employs a look that recalls the exploitation efforts circa a '70s drive-in, he doesn't have the same grasp on said material's button pushing provocation. Instead, this is a movie that makes its case in small, not capital, letters, which highlights how hopelessly awful other fright flicks are by merely being above average. Unlike other movies lost in the realm of un-releasable realities, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane didn't deserve its time in exile. It's not some lost, unheralded classic, however. Instead, it's a clever creepshow that might just overstay its snarky welcome a bit too much.

7

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.


20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta



19. Antwood: Sponsored Content (Planet Mu)

Sponsored Content is a noisy, chaotic, occasionally beautiful work with a dark sense of humor that's frequently deployed to get Antwood's point across. For instance, throughout the aforementioned "Disable Ad Blocker", which sounds mostly like the creepy side of Tangerine Dream's early '80s experimental output, distorted slogans and recognizable themes worm their way into the mix. "I'm Loving It", we hear at one point, the Sony PlayStation startup music at another. And then there's a ten-second clip of what sounds like someone getting killed in a horror movie. What is there to make of the coexistence of those sorts of samples? Probably nothing explicit, just the uneasiness of benign and instantly-recognizable brand content in the midst of harsh, difficult art. Perhaps quality must to some extent be tied to sponsorship. That Antwood can make this point amidst blasts and washes of experimental electronic mayhem is quite the achievement. - Mike Schiller



18. Bonobo - Migration (Ninja Tune)

Although Bonobo, a.k.a. Simon Green, has been vocal in the past about not making personality driven music, Migration is, in many respects, a classic sounding Bonobo record. Green continues to build sonic collages out of chirping synths, jazz-influenced drums, sweeping strings and light touches of piano but on Migration sounds more confident than ever. He has an ability to tap into the emotions like few others such as on the gorgeous "Break Apart" and the more percussive "Surface". However, Bonobo also works to broaden his sound. The electro-classical instrumental "Second Sun" floats along wistfully, sounding like it could have fit snugly onto a Erased Tapes compilation, while the precise and intricate "Grains" shows the more intimate and reflective side of his work. On the flipside, the higher tempo, beat driven tracks such as "Outlier" and "Kerala" perfectly exhibit his understanding of what works on the dance floor while on "Bambro Koyo Ganda" he even weaves North African rhythms into the fabric. Migration is a multifaceted album full of personality and all the better for it. - Paul Carr


17. Kiasmos - Blurred EP (Erased Tapes)

The Icelandic duo of Olafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen, aka Kiasmos, is a perfect example of a pair of artists coming from two very different musical backgrounds, finding an unmistakable common ground to create something genuinely distinctive. Arnalds, more known for his minimal piano and string work, and Rasmussen, approaching from a more electropop direction, have successfully explored the middle ground between their different musical approaches and in doing so crafted affecting minimalist electronic music. Blurred is one of the most emotionally engaging electronic releases of the year. The duo is working from a refined and bright sonic palette as they consummately layer fine, measured sounds together. It is an intricate yet unforced and natural sounding set of songs with every song allowed room to bloom gradually. - Paul Carr



16. Ellen Allien - Nost (BPitch Control)

BPitch boss and longtime lynchpin of the DJ scene in Berlin, Ellen Allien's seven full-length releases show an artist constantly reinventing herself. Case in point, her 2013 offering, LISm, was a largely beat-less ambient work designed to accompany an artsy dance piece, while its follow-up, 2017's Nost, is a hardcore techno journey, spiritually born in the nightclubs and warehouses of the early '90s. It boasts nine straight techno bangers, beautifully minimalist arrangements with haunting vocals snippets and ever propulsive beats, all of which harken back to a hallowed, golden, mostly-imagined age when electronic music was still very much underground, and seemingly anything was possible. - Alan Ranta

It's just past noon on a Tuesday, somewhere in Massachusetts and Eric Earley sounds tired.

Since 2003, Earley's band, Blitzen Trapper, have combined folk, rock and whatever else is lying around to create music that manages to be both enigmatic and accessible. Since their breakthrough album Furr released in 2008 on Sub Pop, the band has achieved critical acclaim and moderate success, but they're still some distance away from enjoying the champagne lifestyle.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image