Take Back the Knife: “Drive Angry” and five other Amber Heard films of note

Then there’s Amber Heard, who more than holds her own with Cage, doing her fair share of shooting, punching, swearing, and driving. Though she’s no stranger to genre films, in horror she’s generally been relegated to the “hot girlfriend” role or the “hot, demure main character.” She’s never before played a part that’s so brash and profane. In Drive Angry, she’s the sidekick and equal partner to the antihero … err, the hot sidekick and equal partner, obviously. Fans who have lamented the fact that she hasn’t been given a chance to step out of the background and into the spotlight should well be pleased by Heard’s turn as Piper, a charmer who can and undoubtedly would beat the crap out of you.

Have I mentioned that I loved this movie?

As for Heard’s checkered past in the horror genre (of course, by “checkered” I mean “I liked some of these movies and I thought some of them stunk”), let’s take a look. I know you don’t have anything better to do!

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006)

I know. You American-types are all “Wha? All the boys love who now?” because, as many a horror fan has cried out to the heavens: Where the hell is All the Boys Love Mandy Lane? It’s out in the rest of the world. If you’ve got a region-free DVD player, you can head to AmazonNotInUSA and nab yourself a copy of one of the best slasher movies of the modern era.

If you’re waiting for it to be released on our shores, though, you may be waiting a long time as it’s been trapped in Distribution Hell for nearly half a decade now. It’s certainly worth the hassle of tracking it down though. Heard stars as Mandy Lane, a not particularly remarkable girl who becomes the center of attention when she returns from summer break as a total hottie. Suddenly everyone is interested in her: boys want to get into her virginal pants, girls want to be her friend, and at a weekend getaway, someone proves they’ll kill just to be close to her. Is it … YOU? I hope not. Killing is wrong, you know.

Zombieland (2009)

It makes sense that if someone is an attractive person, they’ll likely make an attractive zombie … at least initially. I mean, time does things to a dead body, and even the biggest babe will turn grossest undead within a few days. Fortunately for the eyeballs of the world, Zombie Amber Heard is one of the fresh walking dead in Zombieland (her zombie is a babe zombie) and thus makes a memorable small role even memorabler. I made that word up, but feel free to use it in a sentence. In related news, “Zombie Amber Heard” is a pretty good band name.

The Stepfather (2009)

I’ve recounted the sordid tale of The Stepfather before, but if you’re all “I didn’t read it and I ain’t clicking to read it now” about it, allow me to recap: The Stepfather is terrible. Heard is horrendously underused as Kelly, the token girlfriend who spends virtually every minute of her screen time in a bikini or her underwear. I realize that this notion is in direct contradiction with the word “terrible,” but there are limits to what one should be made to suffer through. Trust me, The Stepfather is pure sufferdom. (You can use that word in a sentence, too.)

And Soon the Darkness (2010)

Heard not only stars as Stephanie, she also co-produced this remake of the 1970 British film of the same name. Along with her pal Ellie (Odette Yustman), Stephanie takes a bike trip in Argentina and finds herself on the wrong end of the … the … well, let’s just say that some really bad stuff happens.

Though more thriller than straight-up horror, And Soon the Darkness fits snugly into that little post-9/11 sub-genre of xenophobic horror films, like Turistas and Hostel. The formula is basically: Americans go to a foreign country for party time, act a fool, and get in terrible situations because foreign countries are scary. Still, it’s a solid way to spend 90 minutes … even if it did make me feel old by forcing me to say “Those girls are sunbathing without sunscreen! They’re going to get a sunburn!” And yes, that means that Yustman and Heard both spend time in bikinis.

The Ward (2010)

I find myself greatly anticipating The Ward, which was tepidly received at last year’s Toronto Film Festival and will soon be making its way into the US. Why am I looking forward to it though the early buzz says “meh”? It’s directed by John Carpenter, that’s why, and even his worst is better than most everything else on the horror shelf at your local video store (do they still have those?). Additionally, while the movie may not be changing the world, the buzz about Amber Heard’s performance as Kristen (and that of her co-star Mamie Gummer) is that it’s quite good and finally proves that she should be given more to do than simply stand around and be hot. Mind you, Kristen is an patient at an asylum populated with an assortment of hot-yet-mentally unstable girls, but still. We’re making progress here, people!

In addition to writing and directing horror films, Stacie Ponder writes about them for Rue Morgue Magazine, AMC TV.com, and her own beloved site, Final Girl. In her spare time, Stacie enjoys a good laugh and looking at kittens.

And good news, Ponder fans! Stacie’s feature horror film Ludlow is now available on DVD. Click
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