Mandy Lane: Pretty Poison

Women are trouble. They always have been and they always will be. To the lovelorn man with a taste for old fashioned romance, women are their poison, the source of inspiration, bliss, torment, and their downfall. “Double Indemnity,” “King Kong,” “Cleopatra,” “MacBeth,” the list goes on, but the one true defining theme in all of fiction is that women can make or break the man, and Jonathan Levine’s “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” is the truest depiction of the power of the beautiful woman and what they can do in a world that idolizes, idealizes, and fetishizes women. Levine’s film is something of a slow boil horror thriller, one that is based around love for a blond beauty named Mandy Lane, and how she inspires a stalker, male admirers, female admirers, and a slasher lurking in the shadows. This is all set to the tune of the real monster. Her name is Mandy Lane and in the final scenes of Levine’s cult classic, we learn that even the dirtiest of monsters can have an angelic face that few men can resist.

Levine’s film builds itself up like a modern John Hughes film, one that has a more dread induced tone about the untouched and chasted Mandy Lane whom the boys all lust after. And surely enough we see her temperament during the prologue of the film as she’s mobbed by many men during a pool party filled with gorgeous women. What is it about Mandy Lane that attracts the men over others? Her purity? Her virginity? Her naivity? Surely enough as we learn from the very first moments, beautiful women can inspire men to do great things and to commit acts of sheer brutality all in their name. More so than any god or deity. And surely enough, Mandy Lane is the prey in a host of young classmates, all of whom either loathe or love her.

She’s invited to a local classmate’s country ranch where the guys going along all takes bets to see whom can get in her pants first while the girls all worship the ground she walks on muttering about her in hushed tones behind her back. Like common sense, Jonathan Levine not only presents the audience with a second look at Mandy, but he allows for the characters to see the omens for themselves, all of which is dependent on symbolism that is subtle and poetic. Notice how the group of friends are swimming in the local lake and Mandy Lane is undisturbed by the snake in the water that is quiet, graceful, but utterly deadly until Garth comes along and notices the monster in the silence and kills it dead. Garth and Mandy have sort of a hunter and prey relationship, one with natural roles that are never quite made clear for the audience. Is Garth inadvertently seeking out a lovelorn Mandy, or is Mandy hunting Garth? And what is it that Mandy sees in Garth? Is he another Mandy Lane, a man who is lusted after by almost everyone but just happened to come across the right woman determined to have him for herself? Levine seems to point toward a frank element in their relationship in which for once Mandy is the pursuer and Garth is the one being pursued.

Throughout their dialogue there’s no flirting from Garth and his caring for her is more in a patriarchal sense than that of someone in love with her. When she attempts to hint at a possible rendezvous, Garth pulls back asking if Mandy has a sister older than her. For once Mandy isn’t the one being lusted after, and this only entices her further. By the time we discover who is murdering the vacationers, it comes as no surprise, but that’s the point. Emmett is the man who has pined for Mandy Lane in silence and dignity for the past four years and has hid in the shadows doing literally nothing to pursue her while other men have thrown themselves at her. Mandy seems to understand that and the further we delve in to Emmett’s vicious killing spree involving jamming a rifle in to a girl’s throat, slashing a character’s eyes, and mercilessly shooting down another, we soon learn why he’s doing this.

The final act of the film is a shocker in the sense that Mandy is such a cool and collected character we don’t suspect she has a hand in these murders. Prior to watching “Mandy Lane” I had absolutely no idea what Levine’s ultimate surprise would be or that there would be an actual surprise, but the scene of Chloe running from Emmett as he chases her down while Mandy calls out to her with a knife in her hand is one grand trick of misdirection I’ve seen in a while. Mandy is such a calm character she doesn’t even display a hint of ferocity in this moment where Chloe runs to her for safety only to be viciously stabbed in the stomach by Mandy who shushes her gently and eases her in to the ground as Chloe, one of the few harmless people in the group, chokes on her own blood and looks on at Mandy in utter confusion as she and Emmett joke about the murders callously. Just like any villains would, we soon learn that Mandy is not above stabbing Emmett in the back once she’s had her fun with him and used him as a tool to destroy her obstacles.

Emmett has fully embraced his love and affection for Mandy, offering up a romantic double suicide and concocting a grand scheme to be thought of as one of the greatest serial killers of all time which Mandy indulges him in and has likely injected in to his head since they met in high school. Emmett obviously doesn’t seem to trust her in spite of his unflinching lust toward her, asking her to take the poison before he does just so he can be sure. We’re completely aware of Mandy’s madness as soon as she laughs in his face and reduces him to a stalk and chase that ends in Mandy looking like the final girl, and Emmett being brought down like a dog anxiously begging Mandy to love him and die with him as she laughs in his face and moves on with her life. In the end, Jonathan Levine’s horror film is a slasher picture through and through, but its axe murderer is one with an angel face who gets someone else to do the killing for her.

Many have seen Mandy Lane as something of a hero who engineered the murders of a group of people providing a constant obstacle for her purity. Perhaps she’s so committed to staying pure that she will do just about anything to ensure it stay that way, even if it means murdering people. Perhaps Mandy is the ultimate bid for chastity, one who will stop at nothing until she is ready to give up her virginity. In any sense, Mandy is true to herself unlike the others, and she outlasts them all in a haze of drugs and alcohol.

By the final scenes when she’s confronted Emmett and turned tail on her deal to die a bittersweet death and painted the circumstances in her favor to not only deem herself a hero, but to become a deity in Garth’s eyes once and for all after attempts to push back from her. By the end she’s not only murdered folks she feels are worthless but she’s won the heart of the man she’s longing for. Levine re-thinks and rebuilds the idea of the slasher once and for all by putting Jason’s mind in to the lovely Amber Heard’s body providing a mastermind behind the maniac. By the time the movie ends, Mandy is about as evil as Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, but the only person who will ever know that deep down is Mandy Lane. And that’s where the genius lies. She’s managed to get whatever she wanted, and she’s knocked off the competitors for her heart, and slain a bunch of people who more than deserve to die. And she will never be convicted of any of it.

That is the true menace of an absolute beauty.