Looking back, it was an insanely stupid thing to do.
As soon as I realized what was happening it was too late. I was already seated at a private screening of All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, completely and totally unaware that it was a horror film. I didn’t think there was anything worse than watching a slasher flick — except not knowing that you’re about to watch a slasher flick. This, I learned the hard way, is acutely worse.
Let me attempt to explain how someone who should know better because she DOES THIS FOR A LIVING could have been so careless. There are slight spoilers that follow, but c’mon, it’s a slasher movie. What do you think is going to happen?
I have a longtime friend who is a walking film encyclopedia. Everyone should have one. It’s extremely helpful when you’re feeling lazy, your phone is out of reach, you can’t recall which Mankiewicz was the producer, or the Mad Max Wikipedia page is just too confusing for words. It’s been a decade. He has my blind pop culture trust.
A few months ago he asked me about Mandy Lane. He assumed since I work in the movies department of an entertainment magazine I’d immediately know what this is. I didn’t. I stared at him blankly. He sighed and began to explain. “People lost their sh-t over it at Toronto in like 2006. Blah, blah, blah. It was going to be Amber Heard’s star-making role. Blah, blah, blah. And then it just didn’t come out. Blah, blah, blah. It’s like Margaret! It’s finally going to play in theaters,” he said.
“Oh! Margaret?” I (smugly) thought. “Kenneth Lonergan’s limbo-afflicted post September 11 trauma masterpiece? Yes. I suppose I will make an effort to remember this Mandy Lane movie.”
The screening invite came soon after. I enthusiastically responded in the affirmative, going back and forth with the publicist and gushing embarrassingly about how “I heard it’s just terrific.” I think I may have even canceled some plans, bragging to my encyclopedia that I was going to see it before him. I was not going to miss the next Margaret.
Now might be a good time to acknowledge that I know people love slasher movies. And many people who work at this magazine love slasher movies. They get energized by the terror, the gore, and the creative ways that filmmakers continue to concoct to brutally pick off unsuspecting teens. Me? I turn into a sweaty, tense, hyperventilating mess. It’s not just the carnage either, it’s the horrible threat of violence. And it’s not limited to slasher pics either. I saw about five minutes of 127 hours, and even those were accidental. Perhaps it’s my psychological punishment for sneaking into Scream when I was 13 years old. Regardless, I avoid the genre as a rule. No exceptions.
Allow me to stress here that there were so, so many ways I could have figured out what I was getting in to. Had I googled it even once, I would have seen a bloody Heard running through a field and thought “hey, what’s going on here?” But I’d already crafted a false narrative. I even remember sitting in that plush screening room chair thinking how delightful it was to truly not know what I was about to experience, patting myself on the back for my admirable restraint and adventure in cinematic purity. I hadn’t even searched for a trailer! This, I thought, is how art is really supposed to be consumed.
And so it began. I knew what was happening as soon as the title popped up in pristine white, underscored by ominous atonal music. The white words were soon splattered with blood as the soundtrack turned to a high-pitched shriek. But I was still in denial. It could be a dark high school satire. Maybe the blood was tongue-in-cheek?
Then the first death happened. It was disturbing and drawn out, but presented with such grave seriousness that I still thought that was the end of it. It was so realistic. The guy may have been egged on to do something stupid, but it was his choice. No one pushed him. He jumped. It’s something we’ve seen people do in movies and in real life dozens of times without consequence. Maybe the rest of the movie would just be about their lingering guilt over this horrific death. There was a sudden, violent death and a lot of blood in Margaret too.
Still, every moment was charged with suspense and the threat of violence, even as they played a few joyful renditions of “Sister Golden Hair.”
And then all the hot kids went on a weekend jaunt to a country house and there was no use pretending. This was happening and I was stuck. I couldn’t bolt. There were like five people in the screening room and the publicist was seated next to the door. So I sat there, curled up in a ball with my hands over my ears and eyes shut as tightly as I could bear, and hoped that the killer would just get it all over with already and kill everyone. It was so, so unpleasant. I was sweating, shaking, and holding in yelps when I would open my eyes at the wrong moment and get a peek at a particularly grisly murder.
I got cocky, and I suffered because of it. If there’s a moral to this story, it’s probably that we should all learn to love log lines. THEY’RE FOR YOUR OWN PROTECTION.