All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

Review first published December 2008

Director: Jonathan Levine (2006)
Starring: Amber Heard, Anson Mount, Whitney Able.
Find it: Every Poundland in England, most likely

All the boys may love Mandy Lane, but as the titular protagonist of this horror movie cum (heh) teen drama, she comes up severely lacking. The biggest problem with All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is that its proverbial emperor is wearing no clothes. Yes, Mandy Lane is an entirely dull, charmless and humourless cut-out Scream Queen. If the whole movie weren’t devoted to her, she’d be just another attractive yet unmemorable horror movie heroine.

Mandy Lane is described on the DVD case as “The OC meets Friday the 13th”, described asthough that's a good thing. For all its contributions to horror cinema (not the least of which is the iconic Jason Voorhees), the original Friday the 13th is a slow, fitfully boring slasher flick which hasn’t aged too well. And the OC is one of the worst television programmes ever to exist, anywhere. Combining the two leaves us with a slow, fitfully boring movie that is full of annoying, boring teenagers trying to get laid, interspersed with whiny American rock montages.

Indeed, this review was a shallow excuse to post nearly-naked pictures of Amber Heard

That’s not to say Mandy Lane doesn’t have its high points. The last fifteen minutes of the film are exceptionally good, thanks to a lack of dialogue and a girl being chased by a car whilst wearing only her undies. The acting is generally decent, if uninspired, and the cinematography is kinda nice, I suppose.

But I’m grasping here. Mandy Lane is let down by everything else. The villain of the piece is unscary, unimposing, uninteresting and a fucking whingy bitch, to top it all. All of the cast (no exceptions whatsoever) are tiresome adverts for (a) contraception (b) murder. I don’t know if you’re supposed to sympathise with any of them, but you don’t. You wish that the bad guy would just hurry up and shotgun them all in the face, before turning the gun on himself.

Overall, I’d say that this sounds like a negative review. That’s because it is. After all the hype I’d heard surrounding Mandy Lane, I’d expected to see something exceptional – or good, at the very least – and not another stupid Friday the 13th knock-off. From start to (nearly) finish, Mandy Lane is a disappointment.

Eden Lake

Director: James Watkins (2008)
Stars: Kelly Reilly, Michael Fassbender, Tara Ellis, Jack O' Connell, Chavs
Find it: Amazon UK, Amazon US

If the tabloids were to review this, the debut piece by James Watkins, they’d probably wheel out the hyperbole. They’d talk about holding mirrors up to things, and mention Broken Britain a lot. And normally, it’d be like listening to a slightly racist grandparent whinge about “the youth of today” and make with the populist ill-informed garbage. But in the case of Eden Lake, they’d be mostly right.

The plot (cribbed from the similarly themed French chiller They) follows a pretty young couple as they holiday to the rural, titular lake. A heartstrings-tugging marriage proposal is in the air, and they’re so gosh-darn lovely that the forthcoming nastiness is practically signposted. Their romantic weekend is rudely interrupted by a gaggle of noisy, recognizably horrible yobs. Soon enough, petty arguments escalate into brutal violence, and it’s adult VS yoof – to the death!

The past few paragraphs fail to convey just how horrible Eden Lake is. This isn’t a film you watch – this is something you experience. It’s all humourlessly done, with a sadistic streak so wide you could park a landrover on it. Forget the creepy blonde kids of Village of the Damned – these pre-pubescent psychopaths are achingly plausible and terrifyingly realised by the script and the child actors themselves. Kudos must go out to Jack O’ Connell, who plays Brett, the gang leader. He’s far scarier than any Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees. And worst of all, you can half expect to see him loitering outside your local chippy.

That’s not to say it’s perfect. Too much of the tension relies on horror clich├ęs, and the final twist – whilst deliciously vicious – is perhaps a bit too predictable. The movie’s particular brand of terror won’t be for everyone, that’s for sure. Its deliberate humourlessness and cruelty will put off the squeamish, whilst it’s probably a little too dismal to make for a good date movie.

All in all however, Eden Lake is an assured debut from a director who has already proven himself as a face to watch in the future of Brit-horror. This is a white-knuckle rollercoaster ride from start to finish - provocative, relevant, scary and gruesome in equal measures. Eden Lake will make you fear children… Hug these hoodies, Cameron.

Kill the Scream Queen

Wherein the DVD case is as atrocious as the movie itself.

Director: Bill Zebub (2004)
Starring: Deborah Dutch, Heather Taylor, Rachel Plastor, Cellulite.
Find it: IMDB

Most people won’t have heard of this no-budget bite of STD by actor slash director slash Rob Zombie clone Bill Zebub. And for good reason; it’s a crass, exploitative pile of stinking old turds. Probably the most pointless and plotless movie outside of a pornography, Kill the Scream Queen is an incessantly boring, repetetive mess. Zebub claims to have made this film as an argument against everything that's wrong with modern horror. Brilliantly, he's only gone and made a film that actually characterises everything that's wrong with modern horror.

Just out of shot: a glass house.

There’s no real beginning, middle or end. Characterization is nowhere to be found. There are no characters anywhere to be found, for that matter. There’s no action and no climax to anything, besides perhaps inside the pants of those desperate enough to be jerking along to this masturbatory nonsense. The acting is uniformly awful (although Zebub would insist that’s the point) and most of the titular 'Scream Queens' are not an attractive sight to behold, unless you like cellulite. In place of its plot, Kill the Scream Queen consists of a series of vignettes (each imaginatively entitled something like “torture” or “molestation”) in which a different girl ends up variously bound, naked and dead.

This humble movie-drone ended up watching most of Kill The Scream Queen on fast-forward, thereby skipping a great deal of the horrible dialogue: “the problem with horror movies today.” The actor/director`s constant pontificating is probably the worst part, as he continually tries to make his 'movie' sound more relevant than it actually is.

Mr. Zebub has a bone to pick with the “scream queens” populating modern horror with bad acting and constant tit shots. He aims to make a snuff movie to remedy the situation. This is billed as a satire, which in this case is like advertising Little Man as a comedy. There are about six boring deaths before the movie comes to an end, although you only need to watch the first ten minutes to get Zebub’s gist.

In all honesty, the very movies Zebub is critiquing all wind up being better than even one minute of this cheap, sleazy, stupid crap. Avoid, unless you’re a masochist, and hate your own eyes.