Saturday, September 4, 2010

Horror flicks that got lost in the shuffle: "All the Boys Love Mandy Lane" and "Tormented"


All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2009) 
88 min., rated R.

Shot in 2006 and unfairly abused by the studio system by never being released theatrically in the U.S., "All the Boys Love Mandy Lane" deserves more attention than it's received by its failing distribution. In the trend of watered-down PG-13 horror flicks and needless remakes catered to the teen market—or sometimes both, with "When a Stranger Calls," "Prom Night," and "The Stepfather," just to name a few—this seemingly standard but refreshingly bleak, R-rated, expertly shot retro-teen slasher pic gets what the genre is all about. 

The "untouched and pure" Mandy Lane (Amber Heard) is a beautiful teen lolita desired by every guy who spots her walking down the high school halls. She and protective best friend Emmet (Michael Welch) attend a pool party at a clique's house that doesn't end well. Nine months later, Mandy ignores Emmet and has fallen in with the "in crowd" of mean girls and horndog guys. She's invited to Red's (Aaron Himelstein) parents' ranch, where all of the guys will do anything to get alone time with her. But someone who wasn't invited is taking his love for Mandy Lane one step too far by killing off the competition. 

Directed by Jonathan Levine, "All the Boys Love Mandy Lane" builds slowly but surely with tension and gore. The kills are harsh and hard (i.e. a slutty cheerleader fellates a big gun barrel). The sun-drenched cinematography evokes a grainy '70s look and feel, and the musical score is perfect (America's "Sister Golden Hair" sets a powerful mood). Jacob Forman's first script supplies a whodunit reveal that isn't all that surprising and presented rather early, but a final twist on the Final Girl archetype is deliciously sneaky. 

Even the actors—Welch, Himelstein, Anson Mount as the mysterious ranch hand Garth, and Whitney Able as the insecure Whitney—make more of an impression than most from this type of genre picture, drawing out their stereotypes. Heard, especially, shows why Mandy Lane is so desirable in the difficult, enigmatic role. "All the Boys Love Mandy Lane" does what a lot of horror films do, putting sexy young people in the woods and making them unsafe, but not all horror films are created equally predictable and clich├ęd.

Grade:




Tormented (2009) 
87 min., rated R.

The Slasher Flick is touted as one of the laziest, by-the-numbers genre, especially with all the unimaginative reboots flooding theaters. However, there are plenty of flicks out there done with style and scares. It's not what it's about, but how it's about it. Such is the case with director Jon Wright's "Tormented," an edgy, gruesome, funny British slasher flick. A week after a put-upon, out-of-shape social outcast who everyone calls “Shrek” named Darren Mullett (Calvin Dean) commits suicide, the nasty snobs that bullied him are picked off by a ghostly zombified version of Darren himself. 

Wright not only has fun with stereotypes, deliciously performed by beautiful people (Alex Pettyfer as the jackass ringleader), but puts them to work. There's actual suspense, the deaths are dementedly amusing and gory, and screenwriter Stephen Prentice's cynical wit gives every hit an extra kick. These rich snobs are cruel and stupid, and deserve their comeuppance—it's like "Heathers" with a slasher soundtrack. "Tormented" proves the Brits have more fun. 

Grade: B +

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