Saturday, February 15, 2014

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006)

So it’s Valentine’s Day again, that special time of the year when couples are at their happiest, pink hearts replace dollar bills as currency, and the birth rate anticipates a spike in November of the same year. Yes, it’s true this is a controversial holiday, full of all sorts of great things if you’re in a relationship, but at the same time carrying a sort of stigma – why should we only care so much on this day? Can’t we love any other time of the year as well?

Well, yes, but we can also have romantically themed slasher movies any other time of the year too. But I’m doing it now. Frankly, if you can’t trust the guy who gave you a zombie romance movie to give you a heartwarming good time on screen, who the hell can you trust?

Director: Jonathan Levine
Starring: Amber Heard, Michael Welch

So we start off with some indie pop music and scenes of high school girls looking hot and stuff. If you're among the small, deluded part of the population who really wanted to revisit the shallowness and idiocy of "popular" high school life, you'll be in heaven with the opening scenes. For the rest of us, this is just a reminder of why it's so great that people grew out of phases like this and actually got personalities later on, like plants coming into bloom.

But another thing that's coming into bloom is Mandy Lane, played by Amber Heard. She apparently used to be a nerdy girl and then got hot over the summer. Which then gives douchebags like this the right to shamelessly flirt with her at random pool parties:

"Hur hur, I'm an alchemic mutation of every douchey guy you see at parties like this." 

He’s not very good at it or anything, mostly just kind of telling her how hot she is in a way that 99% of girls would never go for, not bothering to compliment or flatter her in any way.  So she tells that guy to fuck off. He then goes up on the roof with Teenage Edward Norton, a friend of Mandy’s who I’m sure has another name – but I’m just calling him Teenage Edward Norton. Because holy shit, it’s fucking identical. I mean if you told me he was plummeted from the Primal Fear days of the past into the present day, I'd believe you.

Teenage Edward Norton tells the jock guy they should do something cool, like jumping off the roof. Jock guy thinks that’s a pretty cool idea, so he says yes, but it turns out Teenage Edward Norton isn’t dying today! What follows is pretty much another in the long line of modern horror movie scenes that could be completely plausible wacky Yahoo! news stories: "Stupid Guy Jumps Off Roof and Kills Self in Pool."

Then people in the comments section got into a seven page debate about ethics, a topic which nobody had a real clue about.

Next scene is set nine months later, where a bunch of guys and girls are going to some barn way out in the middle of nowhere to drink and party, a plot I'm sure you've never seen in a horror movie before. The guys are all just interested in Mandy for the most part, even though there are other girls going. What ensues isn't so much a bunch of kids having a party as it is a sort of wild, feral jungle hunt, with Mandy as the presumed prey.

The first guy to make a move happens to be the black guy, Bird, who tells her he’s different from the other guys. I'm sure. I'm also sure he'll be the first one to talk about how girls only go for jackasses and how he's the only nice and sensitive guy left. Snore. He holds her hand, tries to kiss her – it’s actually pretty suave. 

That is, until Mr. Cockblock here shows up:

Yes, this born and bred farm boy is named Garth, and he will serve as … well, the hot guy who lives in the barn. Later they have a pool party and take off her top in the water, horsing around in a way that may be a little too serious for her. Luckily Garth shows up again, like a guardian angel, and shoots his gun a few times at "snakes" in the water - thereby saving Mandy's ass from becoming even more of a coveted sexual treasure than it already was.

The next candidate on the flirt train is Jake, this douchey kid who thinks he's all that because he can drink a bottle of hard liquor like a 40-year-old alcoholic. His hobbies include driving trucks in his underwear with a gun AND a bottle of liquor:

Sounds like the kind of thing Rush Limbaugh fans would be into.

And flirting with Mandy by berating her and insulting her because she doesn't find him charming. You know, the best way to get a girl. Grabbing her arm and shouting about how she thinks she's better than everyone else? That will win her over for sure.

But this isn't just a speed dating game - it's a horror film. In true slasher fashion, we get some pretty gruesome kills, such as this girl, who finds out that a gun in her mouth isn't as fun as having a dick in her mouth:

An actual good kill scene, WHAT'S THAT?!

(Note: I'm not being sexist here. The previous scene that girl was in, she was sucking off that Jake kid! Don't shoot the messenger. The movie is the one with the obvious symbolism!)

And then we get Bird, who gets his eyes slit rather bloodily and then stabbed several times in the back:

"No, I hate knives being run over my face without actually touching me! AAAAAAGGGGHHHHH!"

He at least gets in some good punches before he dies. That isn't something you see very often in slashers. I mean even in Jason Takes Manhattan, the fights were all pretty one sided. But I guess Young Edward Norton as the killer here isn't quite as imposing as Jason Voorhees, so it makes sense.

The last kill of the movie, among the main characters anyway, is the shallow blonde bimbo of the group, Chloe, who gets stabbed in the gut by Mandy herself. That's right; Mandy was in on it the whole time with Young Edward Norton. Apparently they were in some sort of weird suicide serial killer pact thing, which thankfully isn't elaborated on too much. It would really cheapen it if there were some kind of big explanation to this whole plot with tons of flashbacks. The implications are scarier than anything the movie could show you. Partially because it's so realistic; this kind of stuff could happen in real life.

And the social commentary in the film is spot on too. This is a movie about how young girls are treated. All the boys in this movie are so driven towards getting Mandy and her virginity that it becomes basically what every pretty high school girl goes through: a hunt, in which she is viewed as a piece of meat, a trophy to be won. She isn't a person at all to most everyone, including the girls in the group; she's just something to be idolized. A pretty face and a curvy body. Hell, even the girls find her attractive, as demonstrated in this scene:

There's nothing immediate that can be done to stop this, as unfortunately there's no way from controlling the thoughts of young teenagers. But it's an important problem to be aware of, as this kind of shallow objectification of someone based on her sex is something that affects a lot of girls. Whether it's the "hot" ones who get told they're not worth engaging on any level beyond a purely trashy physical, looks-based one, or every other girl who feels like less of a person because they aren't idolized that way - it's a problem among our young people.

The solution the movie offers us is simple: get together with your psychotic friend and kill the offending parties off. Like the classic horror films, it takes a social ill and pours tons of blood, guts and bile all over it, attacking it viciously like a rabid dog. This is totally in-line with any of the greats of the past. I don't think it's as raw or shocking as those films were, but All the Boys Love Mandy Lane has something to say and says it well, in the classic horror style.

But hey, maybe I'm looking too deep into this. Maybe some of the film's critics have a point.

Seriously. It's a fuckin' movie about high school kids. When do they ever put thought into why they like someone? The shallowness of high school physical attraction is in full force here. Why do we need to give Amber Heard's character some kind of in depth personality? The film doesn't need that at all. It's intentional that she seems like a dull character, because she isn't a character to the other people she's with - she's a blank slate to project their sexual desires and insecurities onto. That's what the movie was about.

And yeah, the director's a pervert; that's why the film was showing any shots of even the most remote female nudity ... not for any kind of meaning or point. And since the director is a pervert, that's why the character of Mandy was sexualized and shown in so many nude and sex scenes. Oh wait, she never even took her top off. You're an idiot.

I mean, I get it; if you found the film dull or whatever ... there's nothing I can do about that. It's just personal taste. If you didn't like the story or the way the twist unfolded ... well, that's your own thing. But at least try and understand what a film was attempting to do. You can still hate it, but at least be informed in your hate of it. I dunno, people will like and hate whatever they want. But I just don't think some of these responses hit anywhere close to what the film was trying to achieve. It's not even a really difficult message to get. It's quite un-sutble.

Even more baffling is the second contingent of people, who are obviously intellectual pillars of their communities:

Part of the dark genius of the film is that it brings out that ugly side of people, and they don't even realize it. The people making these comments are doing the exact thing the movie is fighting against. This kind of overly critical body-shaming crap is the exact message the film is lampooning and bringing to light. All that's missing from these comments is a declaration that women should remain in the kitchen or the bedroom at all times. And following that in this movie's universe, a mass butchering of everyone in a five-mile radius.

And even aside from that ... anyone who can't see why people would be attracted to Amber Heard is trying too fuckin' hard. She's a beautiful woman, and that's that.

So this is a good movie. It's a great recitation of the slasher genre that brings something new to the mix. Along with Teeth, it's one of the best feminist horror/thriller movies in quite some time, with a great message and an even greater, bloodier, more visceral way of showing it. But people didn't get it, and instead crap films like Drag Me to Hell or the latter-day SAW sequels got all the press while good films like this one wallowed in obscurity. Just more proof that horror fans have no clue what they're talking about.

I think this movie kicks ass, and I recommend it to anyone interested in good horror movies. Go see it.

All images copyright of their original owners; I do not own any of them.