The Manor Movie Review: Horrific, in the creative sense

The Manor Movie Review: Horrific, in the creative sense

The most frightening demon to come out of The Manor is its writing – sending shivers down the spine and whatnot. Enough said, really!
Rating:(1.5 / 5)

In the footsteps of the deeply engaging Bingo Hell comes the eighth feature in the ‘Welcome to the Blumhouse’ series. If the former was a horror-comedy-thriller par excellence, then The Manor plummets to an unprecedented low of horrific proportions. Set in the predictable environs of a nursing home, the film foists one painful take after another at you. To term it cliché, boring and laughably un-frightening, would be to mention but three of its limitless demerits! Psych wards, erstwhile mental asylums and hospitals are some of the favourite haunts of the horror genre. The Manor attempts to cash in on this setting that has long since fallen by the wayside. And even the stories that hold their own in the said atmosphere are so original that the milieu fails to define the feature.

Director - Axelle Carolyn
Cast – Barbara Hershey, Bruce Davison, Nicholas Alexander, Jill Larson, Fran Bennett, Katie A. Keane
Streaming On – Amazon Prime Video 

The scariest demon in the film isn’t the Groot-like apparition that pays periodic visits to the titular nursing home’s unsuspecting elderly – it’s the writing...sending shivers down one’s spine and whatnot! A highly compromised premise can only lead you so far, and it takes sheer genius to begin with a done-to-death idea and make it soar into the airspace of novelty. A fine actress in Barbara Hershey does herself no favours with this most recent, poorly-written lead role. It is an insurmountable challenge to hold the line in a project fraught with conceptual flaws, and Barbara’s central character, Judith, is testament to that.

Judith Albright, once a fully alive ballet dancer, is moved to an assisted living facility, after she suffers a fall/blackout at her seventieth birthday party. Much to the protestations of her beloved grandson, Josh (Nicholas Alexander), her distant daughter takes the tough call – a call the old lady is on board with, for the greater good. Not soon after her admittance, she begins to find the goings-on at her new home rather strange.

The best horror films are layered and complex, like onions. The reveal isn’t exactly what one expects. The Manor is akin to a huge gift, reams of gift-wrapping paper covering it. Once the said layers are divested, there is nothing on the inside. You may look long and hard, but to find something...anything, would be miraculous. Similar to a prank that leaves you wondering what possible meaning or purpose it could serve? Predictably, there’s a black cat that runs around the establishment, rubbing itself on those seniors who are to be claimed next (Horror originality, thy name is feline!). The young nurses and the lead administrator of The Manor ooze peculiarity from the outset (have the writers heard of a thing called pacing?). In one of the initial moments, Judith’s phone is confiscated from her. When she asks why (her mental and psychological faculties are still good for one her age), she is told that those are house rules, and that it was a clause in the contract she signed. We could perhaps excuse the seventy-year-old for missing the fine print, but what was her supposedly responsible daughter doing, I ask? The one thing in the film I will agree with is the assertion that Josh’s mother (jealous of the grandparent-grandchild bond) is done with looking after her...putting the perfectly capable senior in a facility benefits the daughter far more than the mother. 

The three weirdos who befriend Judith in assisted care seem off from the get-go. How one is capable of revealing the dodgy characters so easily, in a horror film, no less, is a complete mystery? Unlike most of the others - Judith’s severely diminished/frightened roommate, the man with dementia who gets ready every day for his long-dead wife to pick him up - these three oldies exude boundless cheer. And they’re “oh so surprisingly” never the ones being strapped down or forcibly medicated by the mechanically cold staff. Lastly, Josh appears to have some sort of all-access pass to The Manor – he comes and goes as he pleases, any time of the day or night. The malevolent administration must up its game, methinks! How in the world could they allow Judith to convince her beloved grandson of the wicked machinations of the facility, without so much as attempting to put an end to his frequent, unscheduled visits? Zero marks all round, ranging from the confused filmmaker to the below-par writers. As it appears, the acting, though not particularly stellar, is the least of all evils here. 

The fact that nothing of significance takes place (leave alone the three-odd God-awful jump scares and a random black kitty prancing around) through the film’s eighty-one minutes, tells you all you need to know about The Manor. The strained mother-daughter relationship and Judith’s old years of ballet glory may have had something of psychological impact worth exploring, but alas, there is no more than a fleeting scene or line of reference in that regard.

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