All the Boys Love Mandy Lane slashes with a dull blade
Starring Amber Heard, Michael Welch, and Anson Mount. Rated 14A.
I don’t normally make time for teen slasher flicks, but I was curious to catch the first feature from director Jonathan Levine, who went on to make the indie cult item The Wackness and the more mainstream 50/50.
Only released now, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane dates back to 2006 Bi (Before iPhones), and it’s really just a calling-card item, made when the New Yorker was not yet 30. It certainly hits the boxes you expect to be ticked in this genre, as typified by the Sleepaway Camp movies and countless others.
Here, the nubile innocent who inspires all the eventually fatal ardour is, indeed, called Mandy Lane. As played by Amber Heard—a name that sounds like a large group of slow-moving strippers—she also checks off the usual squares: blond, cute, big-eyed, and less than proactive. There’s not enough charisma on-screen or in Jacob Forman’s by-the-numbers script to understand why Blandy—I mean, Mandy—is so transfixing. Anyway, she’s sufficiently hot to leave behind nerdy best pal Emmet (Michael Welch, before he got sucked into the Twilight saga) when advancing to a Grade 12 populated by the typically attractive 25-year-olds you find in these high-school stories.
After a pool party gone horribly wrong, Mandy tries a new crowd, planning a weekend away at a kid’s parent-free ranch. (The Texas and California locations are well shot, in an alternative-music-video sort of way.) Too bad for them. Still, they’re such jerks and stoners, we don’t feel much when she begins drifting away from these bad boys and girls toward a brooding ex-marine “ranch hand” (Anson Mount), much less when they all start getting bumped off, gruesomely, in the night.
Spoiler alert: some other dude is the dude! This is revealed surprisingly early in the less-than-gripping tale. There is a genuinely unexpected twist at the end, but when you never get an actual bead on who a character is supposed to be, does it even matter when he or she turns out to be somebody different?