May 11, 2018 The Manor (Movie Review)
Hillbillies! Cults! Horned demons! Psychiatric wards! Axe murder! Incest! Puppetry! Flashbacks! Jonathan Schermerhorn’s The Manor, AKA Anders Manor, is what happens when a filmmaker stands in front of the soda fountain of Horror film clichés and decides to run down the line, taking a squirt of everything, resulting in a sugary abomination that is somehow flavorless and dull. There is so much going on in the cup that the only sure thing about the taste of the drink is that it is awful.
A joint effort between studios, Woodhaven Production Company, Dawn’s Light, and 2Cousins Production, The Manor will be released widely to select theaters, VOD, and Blu-ray/DVD on Tuesday, May 15, 2018 thanks to Lionsgate.
This story centers on comely mental patient Amy Hunter (Christina Robinson: Dexter series, Emma’s Chance 2016). Upon her 18th birthday, she decides to leave the mental asylum, of her own volition, against the recommendation of Dr. Tryvniak (Rachel True: The Craft 1996, Half Baked 1998). Unsteady Amy is released to the custody of her mother who decides to take her freshly-released-from-a-mental-institution-earlier-in-the-day daughter to a bed and breakfast in the woods where she will be met, at length, by the rest of her family and generally anyone else who decides to visit.
Soon after she gets settled, her awful family arrives, comprised of a couple of quarter-goth cousins, an alcoholic lush aunt, and a foppish nerd of an uncle. After some impossibly-breakneck and unrealistically witty banter is traded, our eponymous manor is patronized by a trio of randy hillbillies, followed in quick succession by three car loads of hippie cultists, led by the decidedly not-enigmatic Reverend Thomas (Kevin Nash: WWE Smackdown wrestling promotion series, John Wick 2014). Also, there is a demon. Shrug.
What follows is 70 minutes of anybody’s guess. There is a convoluted incest through-line between cousins. A demon kills some people. Chess is explained in the most grandiose way that chess has ever been explained. Sexually ambivalent hillbillies force themselves onto folks with no concern for gender. There is drinking and smoking and chanting. There is an inexplicable running cotton candy joke that seems either at best, very inside, or, at worst, simply unfunny. It is unclear whether this production is aiming for “so-bad-its-good” status or if it wants to be a real Horror film, but either way, it does not hit the mark.
The performances in The Manor cannot be blamed on the actors; there are a few seasoned names in the roll. The ageless Rachel True enjoys a cumulative five minutes on screen, which is a shame because her natural talent might have been a brilliant silver lining. However short, her time on screen is delightful as ever. The other performances are not as pleasant. Robinson portrays the dead-eyed Amy Hunter as if it were not a mental asylum that she was leaving, but a heroin-emboldened prostitution ring. Maybe the subdued performance is actually measured and electroshock therapy she received at the asylum really zombifies a person, but that kind of personality does not make for a compelling lead protagonist. In addition, the dialogue throughout most of the film is delivered with such impersonal nonchalance that it seems like, rather than directing performances out of his actors, Schermerhorn was going down the script page by page, checking off lines as his talent said them with no regard for emotion or veracity.
Regardless of the fact that it is lit like a porno, The Manor does not even afford its audience with the clarity that it actually being a skin flick would provide. Instead, it employs choppy slow-motion, clumsily-driven drone footage, psychotically overexposed lighting schemes, baffling montage, and abrupt smash cuts to substitute for style. There is no coherence to any of the visuals; it feels more like the director and director of photography were trying things out for fun.
To paraphrase from Jeff Goldblum’s character Dr. Ian Malcolm, this production was more focused on what could be done than what should be done. Perhaps this film and its budget were a sort of visual sketchbook for Schermerhorn to practice and explore a myriad of techniques to use in an upcoming opus. Perhaps The Manor is an incredibly expensive and elaborate drunken doodle and the next page will be a Da Vinci-level sketch. One can only hope.
All told, The Manor is background noise, at best. The names of Rachel True, Christina Robinson, and Kevin Nash withheld, CrypticRock gives The Manor 1.5 out of 5 stars.