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All the Boys Love Mandy Lane Blu-ray Review

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2013) movie poster All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

Theatrical Release: October 11, 2013 / Running Time: 90 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Jonathan Levine / Writer: Jacob Forman

Cast: Amber Heard (Mandy Lane), Anson Mount (Garth), Michael Welch (Emmet), Whitney Able (Chloe), Edwin Hodge (Bird), Aaron Himelstein (Red), Luke Grimes (Jake), Melissa Price (Marlin), Adam Powell (Dylan), Peyton Hayslip (Aunt Jo), Brooke Bloom (Cousin Jen), Robert Earl Keen (Keg Trucker)

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Director Jonathan Levine's stock is on the rise. His 2008 debut, the indie semiautobiographical '90s coming-of-age drama The Wackness, drew encouraging reviews. He followed that up with the acclaimed cancer dramedy 50/50. This year, he proved his commercial might with Warm Bodies, the warmly-reviewed zombie romantic comedy he adapted from Isaac Marion's novel.
And now, we discover The Wackness wasn't really his first time behind the camera, with the release of All the Boys Love Mandy Lane.

This horror film had its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival all the way back in 2006. It made the horror rounds in western Europe and was eventually released to theaters in many nations there in 2008. It came to DVD in Australia and TV in Argentina in 2009. But here in the US, it sat on the shelf, despite the abundance of low-budget horror that is apparently unspooled to profit. Finally, last March, The Weinstein Company's Radius-TWC label acquired North American rights. They made it available for download starting in September and gave it a very limited theatrical release in October. Today, the film at last hits DVD and Blu-ray in its native country, looking to most like a direct-to-video dump.

Mandy Lane holds one of the earlier performances of Amber Heard, a young actress whose star has risen and fallen since 2006 due to commercial misfires (The Stepfather, Drive Angry, the recent Paranoia) and a swiftly-cancelled TV series (NBC's "The Playboy Club").

The long-shelved horror film "All the Boys Love Mandy Lane" stars a teenaged Amber Heard in the title role.

Pretty high school junior Mandy Lane (Heard) is a good girl. Her looks seem to earn her placement among the cool and popular kids at school, but she's different from them, kind of shy and not so wild. Orphaned at a young age, she was raised by her aunt and evidently raised right. She's the kind of teenager who asks for permission honestly and gets it, even when it's to spend an unsupervised weekend with friends.

Nine months after a spontaneous bit of pool party socialization resulted in tragedy, Mandy has moved on and is ready to have fun with -- who else? -- five good-looking classmates at -- where else? -- one of the kids' family's remote country ranch. Mandy doesn't seem to have any specific plans for the getaway, but the three boys going do. Mandy is their white whale, the apparent virgin who no one at school can claim to have bedded. Jake (Luke Grimes), Red (Aaron Himelstein), and Bird (Edwin Hodge) all hope to change that by seizing this much-anticipated opportunity.

Of course, good-looking teens don't go to the middle of nowhere without some problems. One by one, these six start disappearing at the hands of a shrouded menace. It could be Jason or Freddy Krueger, but it's not. And it's not the handsome ranch hand (Anson Mount) who draws some suspicion. Whatever the source, it changes the sexually charged group's itinerary of drinking, drugs, Truth or Dare, and getting frisky.

Jake (Luke Grimes) and Marlin (Melissa Price) get an early start on the fooling around with some under-the-map backseat fun. Goodbye, civilization. Hello, horror!

Mandy Lane is not the sort of movie Levine would be making at this point in his career and its overdue surfacing won't do him any favors. Still, it's a decent directorial debut which, though it doesn't bear much promise, shouldn't have taken this long to be released. The film is clearly only as good as the screenplay by Jacob Forman, a novice whose follow-up is only now supposedly in post-production, allows it to be.
The writing, with its easily-surmised mystery and implausible final act twist, and the direction, with its disorientating photography, are clearly not the work of seasoned professionals. But horror movies about teens rarely offer anything other than gory demises and this one seems to want to supply a tad more.

It doesn't have much success as the film falls squarely into the frequently-employed templates sent up in The Cabin in the Woods. The lights go out. The kids fool around. Slightly surprising and perhaps a factor in the film's struggle to find distribution is the film's decidedly R-rated content. True, typical horror gore is usually enough to secure an R rating (a badge of some importance to many fans of the genre) and, though not enamored with blood, Mandy Lane produces enough gruesome images to easily warrant that. But "strong disturbing violence" is only the start of its long MPAA rating explanation, which goes on to cite "pervasive drug and alcohol use, sexuality/nudity and language - all involving teens."

Again, none of that is out of the ordinary for the course, but Mandy Lane still surprises some with its frank depiction of drugs and sexual conversation. These revelers snort cocaine, do whip-its, and openly weigh in on pubic grooming, penis size, and oral sex reciprocation. Obviously, the forced rifle fellatio, gurgling blood, and facial slashing are cause for greater concern than the rest. But it's all kind of edgy and not in a way that suggests Forman and Levine intend to shock or be noticed. They almost seem oblivious to the standards even of R-rated horror.

Ultimately, the content doesn't much matter because Mandy Lane still feels like just another underwhelming horror film. It flirts with a bit of post-film school artistry (e.g. random freeze frames) and is not as shameless, hollow, or exploitative as other low-brow genre thrillers (though the camera does leer at and linger on the then-19-year-old Heard). But it fails to offer anything interesting enough for you to remember after you accept the twist ending and watch the credits begin to roll.

There isn't much evidence of the film's delay. Subtly, it is a period film, a fact you notice most in an appearance by a flip phone. It's kind of strange to think that this movie was probably shot around the same time as Silent Hill, The Hills Have Eyes, and Stay Alive. That fact becomes kind of depressing when you realize that in the time that has passed, only Heard has experienced real fame or success and hers is fading. Perhaps fans of "Hell on Wheels" could disagree, as Mount has the lead role on that series, but I've honestly heard nothing about that AMC western through its first three seasons on the air.

Weinstein partner Anchor Bay Entertainment brings Mandy Lane to DVD and Blu-ray.

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extra Not Subtitled
Release Date: December 3, 2013
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Blue Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($24.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

It must be said that All the Boys Love Mandy Lane looks quite good for its age. Seriously, though, the 2.40:1 presentation is suitably filmic (sporting some deliberate grain) and sharp. The picture is complemented by a strong if not especially remarkable 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack.

After seven years on a shelf, "All the Boys Love Mandy Lane" is finally released, allowing all to see a teenaged Amber Heard's first lead role.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's only bonus feature is an audio commentary by director Jonathan Levine, recorded in 2013. That gives this the valuable distance and perspective of tracks produced for catalog films.
Levine recalls his filming and screening experiences in addition to citing his influences. Other topics of discussion include the '70s style, aspects of the story he related to, the year this spent in editing, and the conscious decisions to end in daylight and play up agoraphobia in contrast to the usual horror tactics. It's quite a good listen for a solo track.

The disc opens with HD trailers for Only God Forgives, Lovelace, and Man of Tai Chi, none of which are accessible by menu. Mandy Lane's trailer is nowhere to be found.

The menu loops a scored, bordered 30-second montage. Like other Weinstein Blu-rays, this one neither resumes unfinished playback nor lets you set bookmarks. When will they figure this seemingly basic facet of Blu-ray authoring out?

No inserts or slipcovers accompany the plain blue keepcase.

All these boys (Luke Grimes, Adam Powell, and Edwin Hodge) love Mandy Lane. Too bad Mandy Lane (Amber Heard) isn't that into them.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I'd love to say All the Boys Love Mandy Lane was worth the long wait, but that just isn't true. The film shows a little promise and grit but largely just conforms to the usual horror movie composition down to a twist ending that doesn't relate to what we've just watched.

With a strong presentation and an unusually good audio commentary, the Blu-ray is fine. Still, only genre devotees and those determined to see every film directed by Jonathan Levine or starring Amber Heard will have good reason to rent this.

Buy All the Boys Love Mandy Lane from Amazon.com: Blu-ray / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Amber Heard: And Soon the Darkness Paranoia Drive Angry The Rum Diary ExTerminators Zombieland The Joneses
Directed by Jonathan Levine: Warm Bodies
The Cabin in the Woods Evil Dead (2013) Embrace of the Vampire (2013) Fright Night (2011) Halloween
Frozen (2010) Jennifer's Body The Faculty Stay Alive Plush I Spit on Your Grave (1978)
Long-Shelved: 6 Souls The Factory Margaret Take Me Home Tonight Red Dawn (2012) Solomon Kane

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Reviewed December 3, 2013.



Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2013 Radius-TWC, Occupant Films, and Anchor Bay Entertainment.
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