Mandy Lane, who all the boys love, or more accurately lust after, is portrayed by Amber Heard (Paranoia). Her character gives off a vibe of sexuality, but at the same time maintains an innocent lifestyle. Directed by Jonathan Levine, (Warm Bodies) and written for the screen by Jacob Forman, (The Well) the film is classified as being part of the genres of horror, mystery, and thriller. I had heard about this movie for quite some time, but like many in the States, was unable to see it until recently.
After premiering on September 9, 2006 at the “Toronto International Film Festival,” the movie was shown at various additional festivals, and in the intervening years, was also released internationally in both theaters and on DVD. In America, however, it had a slew of distribution problems. Finally, this past October, it received a limited theatrical run. I did not see it in the theater. I don’t even know if it was playing in the south Florida area where I live. Several nights ago, while searching Netflix, I saw that it was available for instant streaming, so I decided to give the film’s 90 minute runtime a look. What I was expecting after hearing some almost reverential reviews by horror film connoisseurs is not exactly what I felt the film ultimately delivered. While it is certainly not a terrible movie, I don’t think it is a standout of the genre either.
At the beginning of the film, Mandy’s only friend appears to be the socially awkward, Emmet (Michael Welch). The two attend a pool party at the home of Dylan, (Adam Powell) who is one of their high school’s star athletes. Mandy is invited; Emmet is allowed to tag along only because Mandy won’t go without him. While at the party, every guy is making their pitch to make an impression on her. After being bullied in the pool by Dylan, Emmet goes up to the roof of the house, which overlooks the water. Dylan goes up to the roof to ask Emmet to leave. While there, however, they get to talking, and Emmet is able to convince the inebriated Dylan, that if he wants to win Mandy over, he is going to have to do something special to impress her, like jumping from the roof into the pool, in full view of everyone at the party. Foolishly, Dylan believes Emmet when he says that he will jump with him. Dylan jumps off the roof while yelling out Mandy’s name, and although he does land in the pool, he is killed instantly. Emmet is left standing on the roof, immediately becoming an object of scorn to his fellow classmates.
The film by this point began to venture, at least I thought, into horror movie territory. I was left wondering, if one of Dylan’s friends would seek revenge on Emmet and Mandy for being the reason Dylan engaged in such stupidity . . . or . . . if the spirit of the dead Dylan would come back as a ghost to haunt Emmet and those he loves. Neither of those scenarios happen, nor anything like them. Instead, the film jumps ahead nine months in time to the high school outdoor running track. The weekend is upon the high school seniors, and it is time to party.
Red (Aaron Himelstein) decides to have some friends over to his parents’ Texas ranch house for the weekend. Mandy Lane, who has since stopped associating with Emmet, is of course invited to spend time with her new friends. Joining Red and Mandy are Bird, (Edwin Hodge) Chloe, (Whitney Able) Jake, (Luke Grimes) and Marlin (Melissa Price). The antics of the teenagers begin before they even arrive at the ranch: from smoking marijuana, to stealing a keg of beer off of the back of a guy’s pickup truck at the gas-station, and snorting lines of cocaine in the gas station bathroom, among other things. Mandy, however, does not choose to participate in any part of the pre-ranch, party behavior. Once the teens arrive at the secluded location, they are the only ones around with the exception of the quiet war-veteran ranch hand, Garth (Anson Mount). Shortly after their arrival, while they are collectively partaking in drugs, drink and sex, it doesn’t take long for the friends to start to be killed. Several questions came to me as I was watching the film: Who is killing the teens? What is the motivation of the person doing the killing? Is it one of the friends? Is it the ranch hand?
The answer to the question as to who is killing off the friends comes early on in the second part of the film, but the reason why is not revealed until virtually the end. One thing I really liked about the movie was its twist ending, which I won’t reveal for those of you who have not yet seen the film and want to. I didn’t see it coming, and when I stopped to think about it, Levine and Forman actually give the viewer two twist endings. That alone, for me, made up – for the most part – for the rest of the movie, where nothing really happens. I never once got a jump scare from the film, or had the tension build up inside me waiting to see if a particular character would survive the killer’s attempt to off them. The movie does contain a few gory sequences, but nothing that hasn’t been seen before, and done in a more extreme manner. With that being said, the squeamish among you might have to look away from the screen once or twice. Overall, the movie is neither very good, nor very bad, so if you have been hearing about it since it first made noise on the festival circuit, it is certainly watchable once.