Posts Tagged ‘weekend

03
Mar
14

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006) Teen Angst Armageddon

All-the-Boys-Love-Mandy-Lane-poster

a Primal Root review

I gotta say, I look back on my high school years somewhat fondly. Enough time has rolled by now that I can selectively choose the times and moments I care to look back upon with the bittersweet twinge of nostalgia tugging at my steadily aging, withering, heart strings and marvel at how fleeting those four years of my time here in this world were. Still, upon closer inspection, high school was a pretty tricky, nasty little piece of the human experience. Sure, I had it pretty well , but everyone had their hangups and hurts, no matter how confident they came across. It all seemed to mean so much and it felt like everything was at stake. It’s a time when the politics of social interaction are driven home and our lifelong insecurities are so often set in stone. It’s a time of growth, cruelty and burgeoning sexuality. Let’s face it, sometimes it was like a fresh slice of Hell.

This is just where “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” drops us in the middle of, Teen Angst Armageddon time as Amber Heard’s Mandy Lane walks through the halls of her high school and every male eyeball present happens to find it’s gaze dropping upon her blossoming bosom or her noticeably curvaceous posteriors. In the seething cauldron of pubescent hormonal Hell, known as high school, it is to be expected. But as the film plays out, these glances prove to be the tip of an iceberg leading to the flick’s M.O.

See, every inhabitant of this high school possessing a cock and set of balls are in a strange, deep seeded lust for Mandy Lane. According to rumor, she’s still a virgin, (which is some kind of mythic wonder for high school boys. He who deflowers has the power? I dunno, the logic of cherry popping being a big deal, some transcendent moment, has always baffled me) and has become a pro at haulting the advances of the nonstop barrage of  young bucks just aching to stick their drippy teenage jerky basters down her unclaimed love tunnel.  It’s actually quite disturbing watching guy after guy try coaxing and pressuring her into having sex with them. “You don’t know how hot you are.” and ” We’re all trying to get you.” are some of the incredibly tactful lines used by these walking hard-ons in the hopes of being “the first.” When their advances are not met with submission with a smile, many of these fellows respond with frustrated anger and lash out. Yeah, I wonder why this young woman’s not interested?

All The Boys Love Mandy Lane

During an opening scene at a high school pool party we get to experience such a moment close up and personal as a bleach blonde jock puts the moves on Mandy Lane before being interrupted by Mandy’s best dude friend, Emmet (Michael Welch). Before you can say, “I am a Golden God” Emmet has this jockular dickhead convinced that the only was to win Mandy Lane’s heart is to jump off the roof of the house and into the pool. Jocko Homo declares his love for Mandy from the roof and jumps to his death as his skull smashes open on the edge of the pool. I think this was supposed to be horrifying, but it made me laugh out loud. Sorry, something about how the moment was executed had tickled my sick little funny bone.  This is possibly the movie’s inciting incident, as we fast forward to 9 months later and it appears Emmet and Mandy Lane are no longer on speaking terms.

Think 9 months has changed anything? Hell no, all the boys are still looking to lay a coat of Mandy’s virgin blood all over their pussy pokers. This lusting even inspires a rare slasher film soliloquy from one of the boys as he watches her jog around the  schools track…

“There she is boys, Mandy Lane. Untouched, pure. Since the dawn of junior year men have tried to possess her, and to date all have failed. Some have even died in their reckless pursuit of this angel.”

In fact, this young stoner, by the name of Red (Aaron Himelstein), has invited Mandy and group of fellow classmates out to his Father’s ranch for a weekend of acting like idiots, doing drugs, and high pressuring every woman in sight into having sex with them. Believe it, or not, Mandy Lane agrees to go along with these horny teen dogs out for blood.

The first quarter of “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” has an unrelentingly dark, mean spirited tone that bodes well for the rest of the picture as we witness the teens fervently cutting one another down as a means of making themselves feel superior. There’s a teenage power struggle going on as the girls claim one another are fat, that someone has far too much pubic hair and the the fragile male ego is bruised when one man is singled out as having the smallest dick at the table during a game of truth or dare.  As fascinating as all this is, after a short while it all just feels like a retread of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter with a slightly dull emo edge to it. Before long, the teens are butchered one by one in some grisly ways, but none too shocking, and the film falls into the typical slasher conventions where there are no real surprises or shocks to be found. And the film’s slasher, who is obvious from the get-go, is revealed at nearly the halfway point and makes a pretty lackluster boogeyman.

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By the end, when the final twist is revealed and a confrontation in a mass grave filled the corpses of over a dozen diseased, rotting, heads of cattle I was totally dumbstruck and left wondering what the character motivations were to begin with. Just what in the Hell was happening during the flick’s runtime that I missed? By not establishing any of this characterization in the previous two acts, this revelation comes totally out of left field and never quite feels justified. But, perhaps if you look at the people who are now dead, the justification speaks for itself…in an angst high school teen sort of way.

Throughout the film, Mandy Lane keeps a pretty cool, detached demeanor without a whole lot of humanity. Mandy is curvy, gorgeous,  and innocent but never gets fully fleshed out as a character, but that might be entirely the point, as the male and female characters alike only see her as a sexual conquest, and not quite human at all. Through it all, everyone wants a piece of the elusive, untouched, mysterious Mandy Lane and by the film’s end, we don’t get to have her either.

“All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” was  the directorial debut of Jonathan Levine, who would go on to direct the damn fine film “50/50” and that zombie romantic comedy I just cannot bring myself to watch, “Warm Bodies”,  this plus the film’s long delayed release has garnered “Mandy Lane”  a bit of a cult fascination. Watching “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” I can see it having a much bigger impact in 2006, not only in theaters, but with me personally. It feels a little off balanced and falls short in  it’s story telling. That being said, there are some fun performances, a handful of good deaths, ONE pair of breasts, and one excellent final fight in a mud hole filled with rotten cows.  It’s worth checking out, just don’t expect Mandy Lane to give it all up that easy. All well intention and good effort at creating a genre deconstructing slasher flick that concentrate a considerable amount of it’s time and effort focusing on teenage gender roles and individual insecurities. Again, much like high school itself, “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” is small potatoes.

I’m giving “Mandy Lane” TWO and a HALF out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

26
Apr
12

The Innkeepers: Clean Linens and Dead Ends

a Primal Root review

Okay Gang, I’m going to try REAL hard not to spoil anything about “The Innkeepers.” You have my word that spoilers will be kept to a minimum.

I remember hearing of Ti West’s “The House of the Devil” through the horror fan grapevine as a cinematic experience those who watched either loved or hated. I decided to give it a go and became a member of the former category. I loved “The House of the Devil” and felt it’s quirky, patient approach to building suspense and creating a genuine atmosphere of dread was so refreshing it almost felt totally new in a cinematic culture where most films are slashed to ribbons in the editing process and paced to the heart rate of a Starbucks junkie. Sure, this technique is nothing new and was perfected by the likes of Hitchcock and De Palma and Carpenter, but to see a young, fresh out the gates filmmaker like Ti West utilize a form of cinematic story telling that seemed all but forgotten instantly made the young man an artist I wanted to keep tabs on.

Enter, “The Innkeepers”, West’s most recent effort. The story of two slacker employees Claire (Sara Paxton from The Last House on the Left remake) and Luke (Pat Healy from Rescue Dawn) of the very soon to be shut down and demolished Yankee Pedlar Inn, a three story, turn of the century kind of place with awesome wallpaper, hard wood floors and the obligatory legend of a tragic death and enduring haunting therein. As the last two employees on staff at the Yankee Pedlar, Clair and Luke take the opportunity to down some cheap beer and launch a full scale investigation into the legendary haunting of deceased bride-to-be, Madeline O’Malley which Luke claims to have encountered on several occasions.

The duo busts out their recording equipment to try and capture some EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) and set the stage for the possibility of a ghostly encounter. And honestly, one gets the impression that these two are investigating more our of sheer boredom than any passionate interest. However, as some curious happenings begin to manifest around Clair and Luke they are advised by one of the only guests they have that weekend, Leanne (Kelly McGillis from Top Gun (!) ) who is a former TV actress turned psychic medium.  She comes to Claire as a friend and offers a possible guide to the spirit world while also offering some well timed significant New Age wisdom and a dark warning…

“The Innkeepers” is one scary mother fucking movie. It finally dawned on me that, really, if there’s one genre of horror sure to really get me rattled it’s the kind that involves hauntings and ghosts. Ghosts are a tricky subject in horror movies because they can be handled improperly like they were in the remake of “Paranormal Activity” (2009) or “Insidious” (2011) where everything is revealed, everything explained and everything is showcased in the light of day and leaves nothing to the imagination. I have always been of the opinion that scariest thing we will ever face is that which we don’t understand and what’s left up to us to imagine. Always, this will be far more frightening than anything a filmmaker and his effects crew could ever create and showcase.

For the majority of “The Innkeepers” we join Claire and Luke in their final, modest,  quest to seek any kind of proof of the supernatural at The Yankee Peddler. We see only what they see, hear what they hear and many times adopt their point of view as the camera track closely behind them keep the frame claustrophobic and tense as the viewer joins them in the investigation. Often there’s nothing but silence or the hum of static piping through headphones as they listen to what they’re recording. I was on the edge of my seat in anticipation being drawn in both wanting something to happen and being incredibly fucking nervous as to the when and what might be revealed or heard. It’s a film that realizes we’ve seen this sort of film before and that we are familiar with the beats. “The Innkeepers” defies our expectations and repeatedly scares the shit out of the viewer. They may be jump scares, but they are well earned and serve the purpose of the story at hand.

Not only are the scares and techniques used to deliver them excellent, but so is the cast at hand. Our star player, Sara Paxton gives a very genuine and game performance as the adorable, nerdy slacker, Claire. She finds herself in the center of the storm during the proceedings and manages to play up her distress well and also proves to be quite the comedian to boot. Paxton is imminently watchable and young actress I look forward to seeing more from. Pat Healy as Luke is a great foil to Claire and generates some great laughs with his deadpan, sarcastic performance. Like Paxton, Healy is called upon to both be very believably funny and terrified. The brother pulls it off in spades. Kelly McGillis is fantastic as the resident psychic, Leanne, a once famous TV star with a gift for communicating with the other side. As the films most prominent supporting player she proves believable and essential to the tale and really grounds the film in reality. “The Innkeepers” benefits greatly from her presence.

“The Innkeepers” brings to mind Kubrick’s “The Shining” by way of Kevin Smith’s “Clerks”. It’s the story of two intelligent but unmotivated young adults working a literal dead-end job and floating rudderless. When Clair is asked by Leanne what she does Claire can only respond with an awkward and unsure “I’m kind of between things.” as if she’s never given a single thought to what will be coming next for her.  Claire and Luke are very real and well developed characters that feel like people we know. Hell, what might be even stranger is that these characters might even be many of us, stuck in lame jobs and having resigned ourselves to them with no clue as to how we could ever better our situation.  These characters wonder the silent, ancient halls of The Yankee Peddler looking for the smallest evidence that there is something more there. Evidence that there could be any truth to legend of Madeline O’Malley. It may seem like a futile search to some, pointless even when faced with the crushing reality of oncoming unemployment, but the truth is that some of us might never find anything better than what we’ve got and grown accustomed to. Many find themselves in the exact same trap Claire and Luke find themselves in. Walking the halls of the place they can’t stand in a kind of purgatory.I can think of few things scarier than that.

Well, beside mother fucking ghosts…

The Innkeepers is an intelligent and brilliantly constructed horror film. One that doesn’t spoon feed it’s story or characters to the audience.  The Yankee Peddler itself feels like a character int he film, much in the same way The Overlook Hotel played the same sort of significance in the proceedings of The Shining. Every hall tells a story, every room has witnessed thousands of tales unfold. One can only imagine what frightening memories such a place might have. And this is the ultimate strength if “The Inkeepers”, we are given the ammunition necessary to fill in the blanks and imagine many of the films horrors. Some are blatant and in your face, but “The Innkeepers” is a smart enough film to allow room for mystery, ambiguity and interpretation.  The mark of truly good film is that it trust it’s audience and doesn’t talk down to it. “The Innkeepers” is just such a film.

It’s a slow burn that takes it’s time to build up the suspense and lay on the dread as thick as molasses while dropping in some well timed laughs and plenty of fun, snappy banter.  Ti West knocked it out of the park with this one, yes, “The Innkeepers” is well worth the visit.

Stay Trashy!

-Root




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