Well, “new” may be inaccurate when we’re talking about All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. Despite being a festival-circuit hit in 2006, the debut film from director Jonathan Levine (Warm Bodies, 50/50) sat unreleased until now. The seven-year wait proves not to be worth it.
It’s easy to see why all those boys love (read: lust after) Mandy Lane (Amber Heard, Drive Angry). The virginal high schooler casts a spell among spoiled-brat Austinites with her sunny, girl-next-door good looks and come-hither clothing. One can feel the surge of hormones exuding through the screen — the golden-hued photography and hook-laden soundtrack help deliver that — but it cannot save a rather routine tale of teens getting murdered one by one while having a weekend par-taaay of sex and drugs on a parent-free ranch. That’s a shame, because the rather strong opening suggests something special: a slasher as if penned by John Hughes.
Meanwhile, the indie Mischief Night has a different John’s DNA all over it: Carpenter, as in Halloween, right down to the title typeface rendered in pumpkin-orange. Director Richard Schenkman (Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies) puts a young woman in peril by a silently stalking killer bearing a creepy-as-hell mask. The twist here is that our teenage heroine, Emily (Noell Coet, the Oklahoma-lensed Cowgirls n’ Angels) is blind.
She lost her eyesight nine years ago in an accident that took her mother’s life. Emily’s father (Daniel Hugh Kelly, TV’s Memphis Beat) and shrink (Ally Walker, TV’s Sons of Anarchy) know the affliction is purely psychosomatic, so right away viewers know she’s won’t be totally helpless in the inevitable final showdown, which takes place on.
The best part of Mischief Night doesn’t even concern her. It’s the rather effective prologue in which one of the home’s previous residents and her illicit lover are dispatched for their sins. Schenkman’s movie never is better than these opening 10 or so minutes; in fact, what follows is only just OK. — Rod Lott
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