All The Boys Love Mandy Lane:
Considering the title, I thought this was going to be a spiffing horror riff on the sexes and high school infatuation, but alas it never really picks up the suggested ball to run with it. Rather, the notion of the chick that literally all the guys dig is briefly presented, and then ditched in favour of a handful of them (with two 'valley girl' types) sauntering off to a (rather lame) party at a ranch.
It's stylishly shot, but the script just doesn't live up to the potential of the title - there is little in the way of tension, characterisation, motive, and the third act twist makes absolutely no sense at all. Worth seeing for the beautiful Amber Heard in an early starring role, and a couple of fairly original kills, but beyond that it's a real missed opportunity to do something deeper and more interesting.
Race With The Devil:
I think my first knowledge of this flick came with Kevin Smith, a couple of years ago, when asked what movie that his (at the time) proposed Red State most resembled in terms of feel and he said Race With The Devil. That was a good while ago now, but Sky Movies helpfully showed this late one night and I gave it a spin.
While I haven't seen Smith's Red State (yet, natch) I can understand (as a result of the Red State of the Union podcasts over on SModcast.com) why he made the link. It's a movie full of paranoia and an unstoppable sense of creeping menace. Two holidaying couples (travelling in an RV with all the mod cons) find themselves in the crosshairs of a Satanic cult, and spend the rest of the movie trying to get the hell out of dodge and to some sort of safety.
For the most part the film has a gentle pace, but the slow ratcheting-up of the sense that something isn't quite right about some (or all?) of the people they meet leaves you with a palpable paranoia. Indeed, this tension builds gradually towards the big set piece sequence where the protagonists do battle with a convoy of Satanists, which is a genuinely tense experience.
Coming in the midst of the 1970s, with the disaster of the Vietnam war still raw and bloody in the collective American consciousness, and at a time when rumours of Satanic cults in the heart of middle America were rife, this is a classic of its time and a skilled illustration of tension building.
Directed by John Hillcoat (The Road) and scored by the superb combo of Nick Cave & Warren Ellis (the former also wrote the script), this is the sparsely-plotted, meanderingly-paced tale of an outlaw who is given an ultimatum - kill his older brother, or his younger brother gets hanged. It's a compelling central conflict, but one that is handled from a distance, with lightly drawn characters set amidst the scorched earth, sun bleached frontier days of Australia's outback.
The direction and cinematography has a similarly distanced approach, something that was somewhat carried over onto The Road (another tale set in a desolate land, scored by Cave & Ellis), and it can at times be surprisingly brutal (the key point of which being an agonised lashing). The Proposition, like the land and time in which it is set, is a sweltering, sparse and bloodily violent tale told from a distance - and it's this distancing effect that can keep you, the viewer, from fully connecting with the story, but nevertheless the vision is uncompromising for all its flaws and successes.