On the surface, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane looks like a fairly typical stalk and stab adventure.
You know the drill: a passel of comely teens in a rural location begin to notice that attendance is dropping sharply. But director Jonathan Levine and writer Jacob Foreman make a number of astute moves that raise the quality level significantly.
Levine proves himself to be an able visual stylist; his lingering shots of young faces smiling in the sun give Mandy Lane an almost languid European sensibility—which enhances the impact of sudden violent interludes.
Characters are a bit more evolved (and less annoying) than the usual doomed-camper stereotypes, and the yearning desire that they feel for the dream girl in their midst is perfectly understandable.
Finally, the absence of supernatural elements makes the ensuing murder spree grimly realistic and even more disturbing.
The titular maiden (Amber Heard) is a seemingly unattainable innocent beauty that stokes the collective fire of her lusty classmates. When the subject of Mandy Lane comes up various boys call “first dibs” as if that will help their cause.
A clutch of her school chums finally prevail on Mandy to spend the weekend partying at a remote ranch owned by Red’s (Aaron Himelstein) family. The concept of summer fun is quickly quashed as a string of murders leads to a very ambiguous conclusion.
Some of the plot points are easy to figure out and some are not, but Levine uses the accelerator sparingly and lets the action play out in a naturalistic setting.
True, some viewers may experience a twinge of boredom here and there, but danger, in the form of a psycho in a hoodie, is never far away.