Following the commercial and critical successes of director Jonathan Levine’s last two films – 50/50 and Warm Bodies – his latest release, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, can’t help but feel like a step down in scale. The truth of the matter is though, Levine hasn’t stepped anything down at all for Mandy Lane, which is now available on iTunes and hits the Angelika on October 11th. The low budget horror comedy is actually Levine’s debut feature – finally hitting video-on-demand platforms and American multiplex screens some seven years after its Toronto debut, and nearly a decade in distribution limbo.
Though it’s a shame that it’s taken this long, that’s damn good news for both audiences and the careers of all involved. Because All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is easily the most intelligent, engrossing, and inventively wry slasher flick since Wes Craven threw a Ghostface mask on Skeet Ulrich in the original Scream.
Mandy Lane first premiered at the Toronto Film Festival all the way back in 2006 to positive reception and a heated bidding war, which resulted in the film’s acquisition by Harvey Weinstein as a title for The Weinstein Company’s genre label Dimension Films (which, ironically, also released Scream back in the day.) However, several unhappy test audiences later, the film wound up in the hands of upstart Senator Entertainment. Senator would up going bankrupt shortly thereafter, leaving Mandy Lane’s fate in flux for half a decade of legal drama.
The movie played around the world in every international market but the U.S., and Levine, a prodigiously gifted young director, went on to restart his career with the thoroughly winning coming-of-age stoner comedy/Josh Peck comeback vehicle The Wackness. It was only earlier this year that the film’s North American distribution rights were acquired by Radius-TWC, an offshoot of (you guessed it) The Weinstein Company.
The most frustrating part of this whole saga is that Mandy Lane’s premise is deceptively simple, and the definition of an easy sell: a bunch of Texas teens go out to a ranch for a weekend of debauchery, and find themselves executed one-by-one by a costumed killer with a taste for the theatrical, who may in fact be one of their own. Yet, by design, the considerable charms of Mandy Lane from the way that the film plays against the expectations of that standard genre premise.
We won’t spoil the fun by noting how Levine and writer Jacob Forman accomplish this, but the film’s dreamy, sun-baked aesthetic and soundtrack littered with inspired needle drops alone distinguish it amid the glut of modern horror entries. And as the titular heroine whose sheer unattainable beauty inspires all of this bloodshed, Amber Heard delivers a movie star performance that qualifies as star making, even if audiences are only seeing it now long after her career has already been established. She’s the key to the many mysteries of both Mandy Lane and Mandy Lane, resulting in a deeply intriguing genre riff that still ranks as the first genuine post-Columbine slasher movie.
If you’ve got a taste for smart and self-aware horror, or are just looking for a number of inventive kills, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is well worth your time. It also happens to be well worth the time it took to arrive in theaters and on the video-on-demand platform of your choice. The nice thing is, at least now you can find out for yourself.