Deadly Manor Blu-ray Review: A Complete and Total Dud

A group of teenagers decides to go camping at the lake. Four of them are in a Jeep, two drive a motorcycle (this will be important later). None of them seem to know where it is. The one guy who has been there before only has vague notions. No one even knows what the lake is called. They can’t find it on a map. Someone suggests that maybe it is too small to be on one. They pick up a scraggly looking hitchhiker. He says he knows where that lake is. He doesn’t say where he is going but he gets into the car and rides with them.

When they get a flat tire, a couple of cops stop by to help and give the hitchhiker some long looks. They drive for a long while when suddenly the driver of the car (the characters do have names but I swear to you they are not in the least bit important as they are so poorly drawn they might as well be interchangeable) decides to leave the highway and drive down a bumpy old gravel road.

There they find an old house (you could call it a manor, I suppose, and it definitely is deadly). Despite the fact that the lawn has been well manicured and the house, while being a bit old and run-down, has not been shuttered or shows any other sign of being abandoned, they decide to break in and spend the night. When one of the girls says sees a shadowy figure close an upstairs window, everyone ridicules her like the possibility of someone being in the house is completely crazy. She gets mad and takes off towards the highway to hitchhike back into the nearest town. Naturally, she is the first one murdered.

Outside in the backyard is a wrecked car sitting up on some kind of concrete platform that acts as a shrine. Inside the car is a photograph of a young woman, presumably the victim of the crash. They kick down a door and enter into a garage or barn or something. It has lots of hay in it anyways. It also has a basement which is occupied by two coffins (that may or may not have corpses in them). The walls inside the house proper are covered with pictures of the same girl whose photo was in the weird car shrine. They look like glamour shots. In some of them, she is naked (the camera lingers on that one on multiple occasions). There is a newspaper laying on a chair with yesterday’s date on it. There is a scrapbook full of photos of dead, naked teenagers. There is a room full of human scalps.

Still, they decide the house is abandoned and it is totally cool for them to squat for a night. Despite there being multiple rooms with comfortable looking beds in them, everyone decides to sleep close together, huddled up on the living room floor by the fire. Despite all of the complaining about how cold it is, no one thinks to get a blanket or use the sleeping bags they presumably brought with them. No one takes off their shoes or boots when they go to sleep.

I’m not one prone to hyperbole but Deadly Manor might be the dumbest movie I’ve ever seen. On the back of this new Blu-ray release from Arrow Video, the blurb calls director José Ramón Larraz “one of the genre’s most unheralded filmmakers”. There’s a reason for that, Arrow Video, his films are uninspired, uninteresting, and terrible (based on the two films of his I’ve seen, this and Edge of the Axe, but maybe his other films – like Watch Out Gringo! Sabata Will Return and The Violation of the Bitch – are stone-cold classics). The acting gives cardboard a bad name, the script is inane (which includes a character shouting alternating versions of “Tony!” and “Jack!” for a good five minutes), and the direction only slightly better than sticking a camera on a tripod and seeing what you walks past.

Even the violence, which is something one might expect to see a lot of in a low-budget slasher film is mostly non-existent. In the opening sequence, the camera rolls across a naked man and a woman laying bloodily on the ground, presumably from an accident. Their nudity is unexplained. Maybe they like to ride naked. Or maybe the people in the car we see roll past stole them. They will turn up later in what you might call “Chekov’s crack in the wall”. Theirs is the only death we see until the girl who saw the window being closed about half an hour in. Her death is mostly off-screen for we only hear her scream and get pulled off-camera by the killer. It is only in the last twenty minutes or so that every else is killed off. Even then, the murders are off-screen or in such poor lighting that all we catch is a little knife slashing. There is no gore. There is less blood than what one might find in a Marvel movie. The only half-interesting moment in the film is when the comedian of the group is stabbed in slow motion.

In the audio commentary by the very enthusiastic Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan, it is noted that Larraz enjoyed inverting the tropes of the genre. I suppose that is true. Not slashing anyone for most of your films’s length in a slasher movie is a subversion of sorts. Making your Final Girl the character with the least amount of screen time, dialogue, or audience member’s interest is also unexpected. One can reasonably go into watching a film expecting to be at least mildly entertained, but here again Larraz subverts expectations and gives you something different. A complete and total dud.

Arrow Video presents Deadly Manor with a new 2K restoration from the original elements and an uncompressed original audio track in mono. Extras include the aforementioned audio commentary, new interviews with actrss Jennifer Delora, and producer Brian Smedley-Aston plus an extract from an archival interview with Larraz. Also included is the VHS trailer (in which the film was titled Savage Lust), an image gallery, the original script and shooting schedule, and a nice color booklet with an essay on the film by critic John Martin.

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Mat Brewster

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