Having had a distinctly mixed reaction to Bingo Hell I approached The Manor, the next of the “Welcome to the Blumhouse” films with a bit of caution. Not being much of a TV/streaming series watcher writer/director Axelle Carolyn was mostly unfamiliar to me, and the film’s plot sounded like a less outrageous take on Bubba Ho-Tep. But with a cast featuring Barbara Hershey (9 Bullets, Insidious: The Last Key) and Bruce Davison (Willard, Along Came the Devil 2) I really couldn’t pass it up either.
Judith (Barbara Hershey) is a ballerina turned dance teacher who suffers a mild stroke on her seventieth birthday. Not wishing to be a burden on her family she agrees to move into Golden Sun Manor, an assisted living facility. Her grandson Josh (Nicholas Alexander, Fist Fight) is worried about her, but the rest of the family, including his mother, Barbara (Katie Amanda Keane, Protecting the King) are unconcerned.
They should be worried. The staff take Judith’s cell phone, citing a no phones policy he was somehow not told about. She’s not allowed outside the building unaccompanied. But when she sees something hovering over her roommate, she knows something is very wrong. Even if the staff say it’s all in her mind.
Mixing the horrors of growing old and the problem of the mistreatment of elders in homes such as this with the supernatural Axelle Carolyn gives herself a lot of room to work and she makes good use of it. With multiple possible explanations for many of the goings-on, The Manor’s audience is kept off guard.
Is Judith losing her grip on reality as the staff say? And even if we believe she’s in her right mind how about Ruth (Fran Bennett, New Nightmare, 8MM), Trish (Jill Larson, The Taking of Deborah Logan, All My Children) and Roland (Bruce Davison), the group of friends she plays cards with? The same can be said of the staff. Are they actually abusive or acting on some evil agenda? Or doing what is needed to cope with people suffering from dementia? Is that why Barbara won’t agree to let her mother move out of Golden Sun Manor, or does she have another agenda?
Of course, The Manor being a horror film we know the answer. But, these films are aimed more at the typical Amazon Prime viewer and casual horror fans who may not be so quick to pick up on the genre’s tropes. There are some Easter Eggs for the more serious fan, however. They include a character named after Ted Geoghegan, the writer/director of We Are Still Here among other films and I’m fairly sure I saw John Carpenter on the TV at one point as well.
The ultimate explanation of what is happening at the manor isn’t entirely unexpected and feels like something from a made-for-TV film from the 70s or 80s only with much better effects. That includes some Dracula-style wall climbing and The Minion (Mark Steger, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot) a being that is neither cute, yellow or loveable. But given the age of many of The Manor’s cast and their filmographies, that’s somewhat fitting.
It all makes for an enjoyably lightweight bit of genre viewing with some fun performances by the veteran cast and is better than most of what Carolyn’s ex-husband Neil Marshall has been putting out lately. The Manor will keep you entertained, and maybe give you something to think about, but you probably won’t remember it by year’s end. Even if you don’t have Alzheimer’s.
The Manor is a co-production of Blumhouse and Amazon Studios. Like the other films in the “Welcome to the Blumhouse” series, is available exclusively on Amazon Prime.