Made in 2006 on a shoestring budget and with a (then) mostly unknown cast, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane has been in distribution limbo ever since. Originally pegged as a release by The Weinstein Company, the film was sold off after the poor performance of Grindhouse, changing hands multiple times over the years. The neo-slasher received a very limited U.S. theatrical run in 2008, and appeared at a handful of film festivals, but it wasn’t until seven years later that All the Boys Love Mandy Lane finally got a wider release when Anchor Bay swooped in and gave the film an OnDemand run and another limited theatrical release. Of course, being me, I missed it, despite it being on the shortlist of horror films I’ve wanted to see for more than half a decade. Now, thanks, once again, to Anchor Bay, I’ve finally had my chance as All the Boys Love Mandy Lane makes its North American DVD/Blu-ray debut.
Heard stars as the titular character; a gorgeous, seemingly unobtainable high school student who, like Venus, herself, brings men to their knees with simply a glance. As the title suggests, all of the boys want her, and, in the film’s opening party sequence, one inebriated chap goes so far to impress her that it costs him his life. While the tragic event only adds to Mandy’s mystique, Mandy’s unpopular best friend, Emmett (Michael Welch), is only further ostracized as it was he who urged the drunken jock to perform the feat that led to his gory demise.
We flash forward nine months later, and now Mandy is fully entrenched in the world of cheerleaders and popular people, yet is still “untouched” by her fawning male suitors. Of course, the boys haven’t given up, and when Red (Aaron Himelstein) decides to throw a weekend booze, sex, and drugs orgy at his family’s ranch, all of the boys have devices on how they will finally get with Mandy. With only the only adult supervision coming in the guise of ranch hand Garth (Anson Mount), the party at the isolated ranch is in full effect, and, while Mandy is, of course, the star attraction, her fellow cheerleader pals Chloe (Whitney Able) and Marlin (Melissa Price) are both along for the ride, each hoping to land the hunky Jake (Luke Grimes). With Jake distracted, Red and Bird (Edwin Hodge) hope this gives them a better chance at scoring with Mandy, but things get ugly during a game of truth or dare, resulting in the group splintering off just as a mysterious hooded figure arrives to take out Mandy’s potential suitors one by one.
Something of a mash-up of indie black comedy and 80s throwback slasher, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is frequently funny, gorgeously filmed, and pretty effective homage to the heyday of the slasher film while still being topical and “edgy” enough to please modern audiences who wouldn’t know Jason from Freddy. While its worn-film and light-leak aesthete may look a bit amateurish in the era of Instagram, in 2006, this vintage style post-processing is probably what drew the Weinstein brothers to the project in the first place, and still has its moments of jaw-dropping beauty. Director, Jonathan Levine, obviously knows his way around a camera, and he photographs the film’s Austin, Texas locales with that gorgeous “big sky” effect, and employing all manner of in-camera trickery (split focus, wide lenses, excess bokeh) to create a visually intoxicating film. It’s style over substance, for sure, but this simple tale of teenage revenge does have a few tricks up its sleeve, including a somewhat surprising twist ending and a smart script that, thankfully, eschews self-awareness in favor of seemingly genuine sounding dialogue and interactions between Mandy and her peers. Of course, as with most films involving “teens”, the cast is far too old to make for believable high school juniors (Heard was twenty at the time of filming), but, once things get rolling, the actors settle into their parts quite nicely, especially Heard, Able, and Welch (who genre fans will recognize as Trevor from the misguided Day of the Dead remake).
Anchor Bay’s Blu-ray presentation is as solid as one can expect from a low-budget film made to look “old”, and is presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The image is riddled with grain, moments of over exposure, overpowering golden hues that make just about everyone look jaundiced, and lots of murky blacks, but, once again, this was Levine’s chosen aesthete and the transfer handles it mighty well. The image improves drastically when the action moves indoors, as Levine reigns in the post-processing, giving us both more realistic skin tones and a surprising level of detail and definition. The accompanying DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio track is rich and exciting, with deep, droning bass, crisp highs, and well-mixed dialogue and surround effects.
Sadly, extras are limited to a commentary track by Levine, but the track is very comprehensive and informative, covering everything from the movie’s genesis in film school all the way through to its long-awaited North American release. We also get trailers (HD) for other Anchor Bay/Starz releases.
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is a film that proved to be well worth the wait, and will hopefully now get the audience it deserves. It’s predictable and, perhaps, overly artsy, but it’s a sure bet you’ve not seen a slasher film like this before, and, for that reason alone, it’s more than worth a look for fans of the genre looking for something a little different to spice up their weekend viewing. Recommended.