The horror genre strives to bolster its feminist bona fides, but shoddy storytelling and hormonal appeals often stand in the way.
The very notion of a “Survivor Girl,” the final person left to defeat the slasher du jour, is empowering as long as you ignore her revealing attire. Arguably the best slasher film in screen history, the original Halloween, features a capable heroine played by a young, scrappy Jamie Lee Curtis. The finest horror film of the past decade, the 2005 shocker The Descent, features six powerful women squaring off against underground beasties.
Yet the genre’s crude trappings often work against its pro-female instincts.
Take All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, a slasher film which rotted on the proverbial shelf for several years before its 2013 release. The film, now available on Blu-ray, revolves around an impossibly gorgeous high schooler (Amber Heard) who inspires a gaggle of young men to follow her to a vacation-style retreat.
Mandy is in charge, the film tells us. She can pick any of the boys she wishes, and there’s no timetable for her to decide given her virginal status. The film’s prologue shows that some young men will literally risk their lives to impress her. Meanwhile, a killer is on the loose, turning Mandy’s romantic possibilities into a quaint subplot.
So who is Mandy Lane? Well, the film suggests she’s a beautiful bore as played by Heard, and a third act twist exists mostly to embolden the title character’s story arc. Mandy Lane lacks scares and purpose, and only occasionally does the film rise above your standard slasher template.
Had the film created a fascinating lead character, Mandy Lane might have made a statement on how women are depicted in horror films and their power in teen circles.
Instead, it’s a clunky attempt at progress with a final reel that deserves to be ignored, not examined.