The Rules of Horror Movie Teen Angst According to ‘All the Boys Love Mandy Lane’ Director

Kara Warner
Senior Reporter
Movie Talk
Amber Heard in 'All the Boys Love Mandy Lane'
Amber Heard in 'All the Boys Love Mandy Lane'

Seven years after its crowd pleasing debut as part of the Midnight Madness screenings at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival, "All the Boys Love Mandy Lane" is getting a theatrical release in the U.S. Why has it taken so long? Delayed decision-making, distributors gone bust, and ultimately perseverance and continued support from the horror fan community who embraced the film from the beginning.

The angsty and artfully shot thriller is/was the first feature from director Jonathan Levine ("Warm Bodies," "50/50," "The Wackness") and revolves around the titular Mandy Lane (Amber Heard) who, despite her beauty, is a bit of an outcast. And it naturally makes her all the more intriguing to her high school peers. Things get especially interesting when Mandy accepts an invitation to go away for the weekend to a friend's ranch — and typical teenage antics take a deadly turn.

Yahoo Movies recently caught up with Levine to discuss teenage angst and sexuality in horror films, the film's unique pacing, and its cinematic style.

Kara Warner: What do you enjoy about exploring adolescent angst through horror?

Jonathan Levine: I think the best horror films or genre films really use genre to explore actual real life stuff that people can identify with. While many people can't identify with being chased by a mass murderer, they can identify with, for example, in this movie, coming of age, being an adolescent and having people be really mean to you, or wanting to fit in, or being someone who was really mean to people. I generally consider myself, [when I was] in high school, as someone who people were mean to — but at the same time I can think about a couple instances where I was a total a--hole to people and I would love to call them up and apologize. One of the things in this movie is that the people who are picked on take revenge in a way I think that is a really interesting way into a horror film. I grew up on John Hughes movies but also grew up a huge fan of horror movies. When [screenwriter] Jacob Forman showed me this script, it was hard for me to put myself back in there. I was like 25, but that's what really appealed to me about doing this. It was a way in to explore high school and the almost "Lord of the Flies" way people are mean to each other and the consequences of that.

KW: There's an actual sense of reality there, especially with the sexual stuff.

JL: That was all in Jacob's script and I thought that sh-- was really cool, first of all because I think horror films are meant to provoke people anyway and get a rise out of people, that's why they're so great — they're just supposed to mess with your head in a way sometimes for no reason at all. I liked that this script was willing to go there and almost in a "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" way, push the envelope and reflect this back to you.

KW: How did you decide to go with the slower build with regard to the film’s pacing?

JL: It was in the script. The idea was at the time, in 2006, they were remaking all these 1970s movies in a modern way with flashy editing and aggressive gore, like redoing "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "The Hills Have Eyes" and our idea was to take a very modern story and to tell it in more of a 1970s methodical way, whether [referencing] Sofia Coppola or Terrence Malick that, we were film school kids we wanted to try and bring a level of sophistication to the visual approach and to the pacing so yeah, it was certainly in the script that it was a lyrical big-sky Texas, and a lot about place, a lot about the setting. It was definitely in the script and it was something we all keyed into.

KW: That makes a lot of sense; I'm used to having a decent understanding of where a horror film is going within the first few minutes but in watching this one I kept thinking, "What is the deal with this girl? What is going on here?"

JL: I think that strangeness that you felt is probably part of the reason it didn't come out for a long time [laughs]. It's kind of different from what you expect from a horror film, which I thought was cool but sometimes that throws audiences. We shot it eight years ago. I just did the DVD commentary a couple days ago, so I re-watched it. And usually I wouldn't re-watch something but I was really proud of it and technically, for a movie that cost $500k, it was gorgeous. My cinematographer and production designer did a great job and so did the actors. The great thing about it being a first feature, everyone who worked on it, we all went to film school together. We were all used to kind of abusing each other's time. Now I could never ask my DP to shot-list with me until four in the morning, but if it's your friend and you both are hungry and you need it then you guys are up to four in the morning.

"All the Boys Love Mandy Lane," in select theaters now, is also available on video on demand.

Watch 'All The Boys Love Mandy Lane' Theatrical Trailer: