need to inveigh against the Weinsteins for once again acquiring a quality film and shelving it due to marketing neglect/ineptitude; whatever harm they did to All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, it’ll be undone by the good folks at Senator U.S., which will distribute the brainy take on the slasher flick in early 2008 (on over 1,000 screens).

This is great news for a great little movie that generated some positive buzz at last year’s Toronto Film Festival before disappearing for the better part of a year. But it’s still a little frustrating. I finally caught up with the film last week via screener, and, after a rough start, found myself getting drawn into an audaciously smart commentary on the slasher genre; in many ways, it’s as conscious of convention as Brian De Palma’s Femme Fatale, and, at times, just as exhilarating.

Though you’re definitely watching director Jonathan Levine develop his visual vocabulary on the fly (and I do think he has the stuff to be a filmmaker of note if he doesn’t immediately sell out to the studios), the screenplay by Jacob Forman is so smart about subverting the genre, you’re more than willing to excuse the picture’s occasional stylistic tentativeness. I interviewed Forman and production designer Tom Hammock last week, and was tremendously impressed by their approach to horror; these guys knew the genre was a natural for first-time filmmakers, but they respected it too much to grind out a garden variety cash-in. In some ways, this might hurt them; the movie is so concerned with upending convention that viewers might reject its myriad twists. It’s challenging when it’s supposed to be safe, and slyly sardonic when it’s supposed to be serious.

It’s also got a star-making performance from Amber Heard, who’ll cement her bona fides next year by not completely lost in the brilliant insanity of David Gordon Green’s The Pineapple Express. Good as she is in the latter, though, Heard really needs to reconsider her aversion to doing press for Mandy Lane. If her agent is preaching distance, she should probably fire the prick before he turns her into the next Emily Lloyd. It’s a small window and a cruel business. And playing straight-woman to Seth Rogen and Ed Begley, Jr. isn’t exactly the path to leading lady status.

With All the Boys Love Mandy Lane delayed for a little while longer, I’ll hold off on reviewing it until the release draws closer. For now, I’m just glad you’re all going to get a chance to see it in the theater.