Jonathan Levine has directed three movies — “The Wackness,” “50/50,” and “Warm Bodies” — in the seven years since his first one, “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane,” played at a handful of festivals and then got stuck in a purgatory of shifting ownerships and distributor bankruptcies. Now that the gore-accented indie thriller is finally in theaters (and on VOD), we can see that Levine was a promising talent right from the start, delivering a sly, startling cautionary tale about the things boys will do to impress girls.
The girl is Mandy Lane (Amber Heard), a high school junior who’s recently blossomed into an alluring, as-yet-virginal beauty. She joins two other girls and three boys for a weekend at a Texas ranch (instead of the customary cabin in the woods), where there is drinking, sex, drugs, and eventually fatal mayhem. The killer’s identity isn’t a secret for long — Levine and screenwriter Jacob Forman are more interested in the “why” than the “who” — nor is this just a slasher flick. With its dreamy, sun-baked vibe (kudos to cinematographer Darren Genet) and pervasive sense of teenage longing, it’s more like an episode of “Friday Night Lights” that turns violent.
B (1 hr., 30 min.; )