All the Boys Love Mandy Lane
Directed by Jonathan Levine
Amber Heard is a born Last Girl Standing: the blonde beauty-queen looks like a B-movie starlet with an undercurrent of fight-back toughness. In this slasher, she plays the title role, an object of teenage desire who's also at a remove from the high-school caste system. When she agrees to accompany some more debauched friends to a weekend party at a ranch, you're not sure of her reasons, and they fail to become clear as she responds to the sex and drugs around her with polite discomfort. With so many would-be suitors—early in the movie, her name takes on a near-mythic dimension among teenage boys—Mandy is already stalked before the horror even begins in earnest.
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane has been on the shelf for about seven years (Heard looks almost baby-faced), but it tries to exist out of time anyway: it has a self-conscious sheen of nostalgia, with plenty of grain and high-contrast colors. It's show-off-y but gorgeous, suggesting gritty 70s exploitation overlaid with 90s music-video angst. The movie unleashes a hell of a corker in an unsettling opening sequence, but between that opening and the finale, the characters half-develop somewhere between genre archetypes and real people. Heard, the film's most intriguing presence, spends a lot of time waiting in the wings to see what kind of Last Girl she'll become. Levine and screenwriter Jacob Forman are clearly holding back, a theoretically sound strategy that in practice shoves most of the movie's actual content into the final 15 minutes. Mandy Lane is sometimes creepy and always a pleasure to look at, and better than the average slasher, but the flat-out scariest parts are the punishing thwacks and crunches of its overcranked sound design.
Opens October 11