Abandoned but never quite forgotten, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane finally reaches theaters seven years after it was finished. In its time, the graphically violent, sexually explicit teen horror tale was close to being ahead of its time. Now, it plays like a quaint, fairly obvious period piece — from 2006.
The reason it was worth releasing — after years of purgatory due to studio financial troubles — was its rising star, Amber Heard, just at the beginning of her big-haired blonde bombshell appeal. Zombieland, Drive Angry and the new film Machete Kills were years ahead of her. But even then, you could pick her out as star in this cast. And not just because she had the title role.
Mandy Lane is the freshman who "got (bleeping) gorgeous" over the summer before her sophomore year. The boys don't try to hide their lust. She's loyal to best friend Emmet (Michael Welch of The Twilight Saga). But dragging him along to a pool party leads to tragedy.
Not for Mandy, though. She's still the most eligible virgin when, nine months later, the cool, rich and oversexed among her junior class invite her out to a rich kid's ranch.
There's Red (Aaron Himelstein), Jake (Luke Grimes) and Bird (Edwin Hodge) all aiming "to be the first to get with" her. Their promiscuous pals Chloe (Whitney Able) and Marlin (Melissa Price) are there to apply peer pressure.
Handsome ranch hand Garth (Anson Mount) is the wild card.
Their now-primitive cellphones don't work, and they start drinking, smoking pot and huffing whippets. Then, before you can say, "What happened to the lights?" and "Let's go for a midnight swim in the river where we saw all the snakes today," kids start dying horrible deaths.
Heard was utterly beguiling, even at 20, when her bag of tricks was limited to overripe lips, tight clothes and constantly pulling her big hair out of her big eyes. You can see why the boys go mad.
The rest of the cast is game but forgettable. The murders cooked up by director Jonathan Levine, who went on to make The Wackness, 50/50 and Warm Bodies, are only modestly creative.
But the sense of the secret lives of naughty teenagers, the overcast glow of the daylight scenes and the snarky, snappish dialogue (screenwriter Jacob Forman did not go on to bigger and better things) make Mandy Lane watchable.
It doesn't live up to the legend that "lost" films sometimes generate. But it's no worse than most of the mediocre horror films that beat it into theaters during the past seven years.
'All the Boys Love Mandy Lane'
R for strong disturbing violence, pervasive drug and alcohol use, sexuality/nudity and language — all involving teens. Radius/TWC. 1:31. Kentucky Theatre.