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All The Boys Love Mandy Lane
cast: Amber Heard, Anson Mount, Michael Welch, Aaron Himelstein, and Edwin Hodge

director: Jonathan Levine

90 minutes (18) 2006
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Optimum DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 4/10
reviewed by Tony Lee
Too many genre movies are simply churned-out product, manufactured to keep the film industry ticking over, with usually no respect for maintaining entertainment standards, fulfilling DVD consumer expectations, or basic quality controls. Perhaps the fodder is produced to endorse fresh talent in marketable crumbs for established audiences where originality, innovation, and genuine creativity are rarely welcome. Jonathan Levine is yet another first-time director making his debut in the career-making (or, more often, breaking) minefield of low-budget horror and yet, judging from the straightforward ordinariness of All The Boys Love Mandy Lane, he's probably not going to be one of those filmmakers we should watch out for in future.

Critically, this epitomises overly familiar teen slasher flicks, of the post-Halloween era, and stars yet another model American blonde, Amber Heard. As Mandy Lane, she's the not-so-ugly-duckling who transforms one summer into a proverbial 'hot' babe. One guy has already died for her, jumping off a roof to win Mandy's interest, but he missed the swimming-pool landing target. Now that she's desirable instead of being excluded, though not quite an outcast, from the high school's petty and pretty elite, Mandy gets invited to a cliquey gathering at a family ranch retreat, to party at her dismally uninteresting friends' leisurely pace, not go crazy on booze or illicit drugs. While she's there, of course, jocks and nerds alike compete for virgin Mandy's contrary attention.

There's some tasteful handholding and hand-jobs that undercut the coming-of-age tensions steadily building up around Mandy's sensual awkwardness faced with the boys' clumsily more aggressive sexuality. Somewhere from the farmland's acreage of meadows and fields, a stranger emerges to become the essential killer-on-the-loose without which there would be no worthwhile drama here whatsoever. Guess who dies first? Throughout under-whelming butchery of horny students, there's a sun-kissed touch of southern gothic, mildly impressive efforts to summon a doom and gloom atmosphere in bright sunny countryside (a whileaway, not quite a rural idyll), and nice guys always finish last in a loony stalker's romanticised suicide pact (when hearts are lonely hunters), and for thinking viewers, certainly, the obligatory twist ending is cringingly predictable, said plot twist lacking the immense potential shock value of a vaguely similar revelation in Switchblade Romance, anyway.

In a period when many hopeful novice filmmakers are relying almost entirely upon sequels or prequels to remakes - of a previous generation's memorable screen hits - to make their own first showbiz impressions, and uniqueness is now scandalously rare in whatever subgenre is chosen for exploitation, it's weakly insulting to find yet another broadly imitative throwback salvaged from watch-and-wipe status only by competent widescreen cinematography of rustic scenery, and minor-key art house wannabe posturing, before delivering a largely ho-hum climax. Mandy Lane is not really a bad movie (its makers are capable rather than expert), but I sincerely doubt whether any - never mind, all - of the boys will love it.

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