In an age where just the mention of another reboot, remake, or reimagining makes even the most enthusiastic cinephile want to gag, it’s kind of weird to suggest that any movie be given a second chance at the box office. It’s not that we as audiences hate remakes. I think it’s more that we hate remakes of good movies.
I mean, think about it. Leo was so amazing at playing the broke artist that drowns for love that many late twenties women and men would probably riot (or at least start an angry online campaign) against anyone who dared don Jack Dawson’s poor boy suspenders. The 1920’s trousers are just too big to fill, and we don’t want you to.
(Yall better leave this classic alone)
Yeah, I think Hollywood has it all wrong. Instead of remaking movies that were perfect the first time around and ruining classics, why not just redo a bad movie and make it good? I bet if you tried right now, you could think of at least 5 movies off the top of your head that had real potential to be great, but because of bad writing or directing, or acting, or a shitty budget or any of the millions of things that can go wrong when you’re making a movie, it just fell short. Which brings me to one of my five:
Now since this is my first entry, I have to let you know, I’m a horror fan. I mean a fan of EVERYTHING horror. Well, maybe not everything. I do have a short “Never watch” list which includes Martyrs, A Serbian Film, and The Human Centipede franchise, but other than that I’m pretty much down for whatever. Classic horror, B-Horror movies, possession films, 70’s Satanic Cult Horror, Thrillers, Suspense, and of course, Slasher movies.
Slasher movies hold a particular soft spot in my heart. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 was the first horror movie that I watched way too young with the volume down while my mom was asleep. Michael Myers is the reason I bolted to my neighbor’s house when the lights went out while I was home alone watching a Halloween marathon. Sidney Prescott made it okay to fight dirty when your backs up against the wall and the bad guy(s) have been fighting dirty with you. Yeah man, I love slasher movies, the tropes, the ridiculous kills, the masked killers. All of this is why when I watched All the Boys Love Mandy Lane for the first time back in 2007, all I could think of were ways to make this incredibly shitty movie better.
If you’ve never heard of this movie, you’re not missing much. Like I said, I’m going to be talking about a bad movie that had the potential to be good and Many Lane had so, so much potential!
First, a little synopsis :
Mandy Lane is basically the hottest girl in school made even hotter by the fact that none of the guys have had the chance to fuck her. She has a best friend who is clearly the outcast, incel, “nice guy” who “likes her for her” until of course, he convinces the archetypical jock douchebag bully to jump off a roof to declare his love for Mandy and gets douche boy killed.
Now poor Mandy has no friends and decides to spend the weekend at a ranch in the middle of nowhere with our band of red shirts which include three dudes who are bound and determined to get into Mandy’s pants and two girls that are for some reason fighting over one of said guys who just so happened to inherit the title of King douchebag from the dead dude in the opening.
From here on out we have the classic slasher fun and games which you can find in the 2nd act of any Friday the 13th movie. Teens are isolated, doing drugs, having sex, drinking and of course get picked off one by one by our mysterious killer.
But here’s where the problems start with Mandy Lane.
For one, the killer isn’t that mysterious. I’m betting you can probably tell just from my shitty synopsis who our bad guy is already. That’s right, you guessed it: Incel “Nice Guy.” It seems at first that Incel boy has realized that the only thing worse than being in the friend zone is being in no zone at all and has decided to kill Mandy and all of her new friends in revenge for him being a loser.
But don’t be fooled (I wasn’t). Not everything is as it seems.
Our beautiful, virginal Mandy isn’t so innocent after all. In the big twist of the movie which plays out in the best scene of the film (which isn’t saying much), Mandy stabs the last of our redshirts in the chest, revealing that she was a part of incel boy’s plan the entire time. In fact, they seemed to plan this whole thing together as a part of some kind of revenge type suicide pact.
Let’s get another angle of that awesome image.
But it doesn’t stop there. Mandy has decided she actually wants to use her track scholarship and go to a state college, so she backs out of the pact. Incel boy is PISSED. He sees their pact as his only way to possess Mandy and isn’t too keen on being friend zoned in the afterlife. He chases her. Tries to kill her. She fights back and triumphs with the help of an extremely hot but totally random ranch hand and tosses incel boy’s body in a ditch with a bunch of diseased rotting cow corpses. Mandy and rando ranch hand ride off into the sunset.
Now, if none of what I just described sounds appealing to you, I’m not surprised. The movie itself wasn’t appealing. The killer wasn’t a shocker, the kills were lackluster, the setting was dry as fuck, and Mandy herself was an emotionless blank slate until the last five minutes of the movie.
All of those things are bad but what makes the movie such a wasted opportunity is the last in that list: Mandy’s arc.
Mandy Lane occupies the extremely unique and fascinating space of being both a Final Girl and the Villain of the story. This concept is brilliant.
Anyone who knows slasher pics will tell you that the success of a slasher pic isn’t necessarily reliant upon the slasher himself, but it’s more reliant upon his relationship with the Final Girl and her arc overall. What does she learn from her killer? What must she sacrifice to survive her ordeal? How does she change as a result of the terror she’s walked away from? That is the core of most slasher movies, but Mandy misses the mark.
(The ultimate Final Girl, Sidney Prescott)
I think the biggest disservice to Mandy’s arc and thus this film is the fact that we never know why Mandy chooses to kill her friends. From the little we know about her, her parents are dead and she’s living with her aunt who seems strict, but not like Carrie White’s mom strict, just like you know, be safe out there type strict. We also know that Mandy loves running. Like seriously, this bitch is running the entire movie. On the track at school, on a lonely path at the ranch, away from incel boy, just running everywhere. And the last thing we know about her is that she has zero interest in any of the guys who are dead set on banging her. But none of these things spell out murderer.
I’m not one of those people who needs every little thing spelled out for me with a movie. I like some mystery and room for speculation, but the key to doing that successfully is laying the breadcrumbs to follow. Mandy has no breadcrumbs.
The most I can speculate for Mandy’s motivations is that she’s just tired of these asshole boys hitting on her and these shallow ass girls for encouraging that type of behavior. But that speculation is a big stretch and I’m not sure mild annoyance is enough to warrant a spree-killing. But just because I don’t think it warranted it as it stood, doesn’t mean I think it’s not a good concept. It’s actually an excellent concept if only it were fleshed out.
In the opening, Original King Doucheboy tells Mandy that she got hot over the summer, which makes me wonder if he was just trying to give her a backhanded compliment or if she was average or extremely unattractive up until the summer. If the latter is true, it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination that maybe these same boys who are now literally dying to feel Mandy up were making fun of her only months ago.
If I follow this train of thought, then in my revision of Mandy Lane, maybe Mandy was extremely obese the first few years of school. Maybe king douchebag and all the redshirts made fun of her and made her feel like shit for years and her only solace was her parents who loved her for who she was and didn’t care that their daughter had a few extra pounds. Maybe they encouraged her and were her support system until the unthinkable happened. Maybe Mandy’s parents got into a horrible car crash that left them dead and her an orphan. Maybe in her grief, Mandy stopped eating and took up running as a way to cope with her depression and anxiety. Maybe the weight fell off and left her open to catcalls and shallow flirtations of the same boys that were calling her Mandy Moo just a few months ago. Maybe their shallowness and praise of her new figure that she only gained from the agony of losing the only people she loved changed something in Mandy. Maybe because of all of this, Mandy decided they needed to die.
See how that’s more engaging than some weird ass suicide pact with Incel boy?
Another guess I had was that maybe Mandy was really fucking uptight. Like maybe religious to the point that she thought all the drugs and sex and alcohol really did warrant carnage. Now that would have been super interesting. In that case, she really would have been taking on the role of 80’s slasher killer by punishing the teens for their debauchery a la Jason Voorhees with maybe a splash or Mrs. White.
Both of these are interesting speculations, but the problem is that the film itself gives you nothing to think that either of these or any other interesting possibility is at work here. It really does look like Mandy and incel boy just wanted to popular kids to die and that’s not enough.
The only time she has any real autonomy or is even interesting is in the last few minutes of the film when you realize that Mandy is actually a master manipulator, but there are two problems with this.
One: it’s only five minutes. This movie had the opportunity to explore some awesome themes like the obsession with the idea of innocence in teen girls, the effects of bullying and depression in teen girls, and the effects that the male gaze can have in teen girls. In short, this movie could have used its final girl as something more than just the entrance and focus of the film.
Two: This problem relates to problem one. The film is utterly unoriginal and boring. There are a lot of great elements of slasher film but there are two that stand out the most. One is the killer himself –how creative his kills are, how mysterious or grotesque his outfit/mask is, and his personality in general. Everyone knows Freddy Kruegers glove, sweater, hat and charred face. And even if you haven’t seen the first Nightmare on Elm Street, I’m sure you’re at least familiar with the gushing fountain of blood that erupts from Johnny Depp’s mattress after he’s sucked in.
And of course, the final girl. Her overall arc, how she survives, and her personality in general. There’s a reason why Jaime Lee Curtis is still playing Laurie Strode more than 20 years after the release of the first Halloween movie.
(The next installment of Laurie and Michael’s eternal sibling rivalry coming out October 19, 2018)
Nobody is going to call up Amber Heard in 20 years to play Mandy again. The killer is boring and so is Mandy but the worst offense of all of this is that Mandy doesn’t shine in any way. She’s pretty. But that’s it. She’s so boring that all the redshirts stand out way more than she does.
Mandy could have subverted so many expectations and tropes of slasher movies while still examining the genre intelligently. But it didn’t.
Mandy being both the killer and the final girl presented so many amazing opportunities that went untapped and as a horror fanatic and super fan of slasher films, it’s a tragedy to me. This brings me back to my original point. If I had to choose one film to be remade, it would be this one, and in my version, all the boys would still love Mandy Lane, but Mandy Lane would just have better reasons to kill them.
It’s on Netflix if you want to waste some time or just love watching bad horror movies.