*1/2 (out of four)
Scary for the wrong reasons, “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” would have been a misguided and ugly horror movie had it arrived when the film was finished in 2006. Finally being released seven years later, it’s a lethargic effort that leaves only bloodshed where a character study should have been.
Amber Heard (“Machete Kills,” the short-lived, Chicago-made TV series “The Playboy Club”) stars as Mandy Lane, a high school junior whose summer transformation into maximum hotness practically causes male and female classmates to pop out their eyes and shout, “Ah-ooh-ga!” Surrounded by swarming admirers, this girl’s like a human flytrap.
She’s not interested in juvenile advances, though, and one desperate suitor pays with his life when Mandy’s pal Emmet (Michael Welch) pressures him to leap from a roof to impress her. Nine months later, Mandy’s removed herself from Emmet and heads to an isolated ranch house to hang with bitchy hotties and the dudes who want to sleep with them. Commence beer stealing and wandering on bright, ominous, field-adjacent roads that anyone who’s seen “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” should fear.
Director Jonathan Levine eventually learned how to connect to his material, delivering hits with 2011’s “50/50” and this year’s “Warm Bodies.” With “Mandy Lane,” his first feature, Levine appears unaware that horror movies are supposed to have tension and momentum. Instead he and writer Jacob Forman subscribe to the genre’s typical punishment of sexual behavior and then just totally detach and desensitize while hinging on an unnecessary plot development.
At first, “Mandy Lane” suggests a savvy portrait of adolescence—that just because people change on the outside doesn’t have to mean they change on the inside. Unfortunately, what follows focuses not on difficult social development but a senseless and troubling fixation on gun violence. Serious and brainless is always a big problem for horror, and “Mandy Lane” tiptoes around harmless before jumping into offensive.
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