In 2006 a little horror picture titled All the Boys Love Mandy Lane was filmed and released. It played all the expected festivals and received mostly glowing reviews, but then something strange happened: nothing. Unless one happened to be in attendance at one of the aforementioned festivals, or knew someone who managed to “obtain” a screener, the chances of seeing this film dwindled to zero percent. Despite the generally positive buzz, the attachment of newcomer Amber Heard, and first-time director Jonathan Levine, who went on to direct such films as 50/50 and Warm Bodies, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane slipped into distribution obscurity. Fast forward to 2013, a mere seven years later, when something strange happened..again. News came that there were plans to plop Mandy Lane onto a general VOD release. The forgotten film of 2006 had returned. Ignoring that strange gap of time of nothingness and the seemingly out of nowhere release news, the real question is this: Does All the Boys Love Mandy Lane live up to its legend, the legend of a quality horror film being pushed aside, locked away from its fan base? Short answer: kinda.
In a moment of full disclosure, I have to admit that I was among the group that “found” a screener and gathered friends for a viewing. With that first viewing being six-plus years ago, I was more than a little curious to revisit in the land of legitimate viewing. The first impression the film gives is that it is a movie from the mid-2000s. Music, styles, and even cell phones are curiously outdated. To know wether this innately works against the film narratively, or if it’s a residual effect of knowing the troubled past of the movie’s distribution is a bit hazy. With Mandy Lane, perhaps more than any other movie, the context of the business is imprinted all over the film. With that fact acknowledged, though, the dated music and technology is a bit jarring to the audience because it doesn’t quite fit within our communal world view. No graphic outlining that this film is in the distant past, just a film in the new release bin with less than “present day” attributes. That dated feel, though, is not enough to derail the film, but it does create a sense of general distance from the story presented.
That story itself is one we’ve all come to know well. A group of teens, one of them being Mandy Lane(Amber Heard), take a trip to a ranch for a weekend of debauchery. From there, teens start to die through creatively violent ways. What separates All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, from standard slasher, though, is its own brand of self awareness. Through song choices, with strangely appropriate lyrics, music video montages, and a fair share of slow-mo, Levine is putting the teen culture on display here. Part horror movie, part Noxzema commercial, the camera leers at the teen culture for a large portion of the film’s running time. That kind of self awareness raises the simple narrative to a type of allegory on high school sociology. The brutality of teenage infighting is something each of us have experienced. The world of high school cliques and emotional warfare is just a bit of a stone’s toss into full out slasher film.
So that self awareness and sense of meta-filmmaking survives the test of time. That portion of the film is just as remembered. The rest though, seems dated, clunky, and a bit awkward. The final sequence, which originally seemed like a clever twist, now seems forced and a little too telegraphed. This results in a movie that suddenly seems more like a novelty from the history of cinema than a standalone, quality horror film.
So, yes, it is invariably a good thing that a large audience now has access to see All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. It is a solid, entertainingly meta entry into the horror genre. On the other hand though, the movie has not aged particularly well. It seems a bit more rickety, and more obviously a first attempt by an obviously talented director. All of that considered, however, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is a film that has waited a long time for you to be able to see it. You should at least have the decency to give it that.