The Manor Review

PLOT: Now having to live in an assisted living home, a woman begins suspecting not everything is right with her new residence, including experiencing a terrifying supernatural presence.

REVIEW: Even though the Welcome to the Blumhouse movies are designed to be stumbled upon in a fit of “What do I watch now” boredom, there isn’t be much reason to recommend movies of the series like The Manor. With the exception of a reliable Barbara Hershey in the lead role, there’s little about this psycho-supernatural thriller that’s scary, shocking, suspenseful, or really much of anything that saves its 80-minute runtime from feeling like a slog. 

Written and directed by Axelle Carolyn (Episodes of The Haunting of Bly Manor and Creepshow), The Manor is a story about a former dancer, Judith (Hershey), who after suffering a stroke is placed in an assisted living facility for senior citizens. Despite being much sprier than many of the residents, Judith accepts that with an illness that will only take an increasing toll on her body and mind, it’s best for her to be here to spare her family — her daughter and grandson (Nicholas Alexander) — from seeing her that way. 

While seemingly accepting of her future at first, the story, in essence, soon becomes one about her being forced to face what life may be like for seniors in homes like this, as nurses and attendants rob her of her independence and begin treating her like a child who needs to be told when to go to bed. As a writer, Carolyn has a solid idea here for a proper psychological thriller about a woman being treated to feel like she’s losing grip on her mind. When she begins having hallucinations, she can’t help but feel like she has to blame it on the nurses, who are all trying to make her feel like it’s simply a symptom of her aging mind. But that’s obviously not the case, as said hallucinations come in the form of a creepy tree-creature who stalks her room at night, but which the nurses tell Judith isn’t there, all before sending her back to bed, and maybe with some nice pills. 

the manor review
The Manor

Again, there’s certainly about this concept that sounds thrilling on the page and material for a great leading performance. The problem is, the movie is just so dull. Despite doing some solid work on The Haunting of Bly Manor, Carolyn simply doesn’t have the vision here to give her story any sense of menace or eerie atmosphere the story deserves.

The events that comprise Judith’s time at the residence have a stagnant rhythm that makes her journey neither thrilling nor spooky. The sequences with the creepy creature amount to nothing more than the occasional jump scare, and the suspense that is meant to be driven from the obvious gaslighting of the nurses follow the same pattern from start to finish. There’s something mildly off about them, and they always want Judith to calm down, go back to bed, and take her pills — and it doesn’t go much further than that.

Whether it be from the cinematography, musical, or other fronts, there’s not much effort gone into setting an absorbing tone for any of the drama, mystery, or terror. With everything going on — like why she’s seeing this creature or why three other residents played by Bruce Davison, Fran Bennett, or Jill Larson are so happy while everyone else is so miserable — there’s no reason to feel swept up in anything. Given such a point-and-shoot style, whenever the movie asks you to ponder what’s going on or tries to frighten you, there’s little reason to offer more than a shrug. Sometimes Judith loses something, such as a hairbrush, and those moments feel like huge developments in the action. 

So much of the movie relies on the strength of Hershey who is able to mostly hold up the whole thing with her great work. Taking her from assured, independent Judith who seems at relative peace with where she needs to be right now, Hershey goes through Judith’s escalating manic state without going over the top so as to eliminate the fact there is a good story in here about an elderly woman who is feeling like she’s being forced to surrender her free will. She’s good as expected to be, and even when everything around her does nothing to compel, she does the work to rope you in. 

This is even so as the story doesn’t do her any favors, dancing around a mystery that’s essentially given away towards the mid-way point, and bouncing to events that don’t seem so much as escalating in severity as they are repetitive. The ending, too, fails when it comes to trying to shock, but also on a narrative level, feeling like a bit of a cop-out. 

But perhaps none of that will matter for undemanding horror viewers, who genuinely don’t need more than a creepy figure to give them the chills. As something that exists to be clicked on while scrolling Amazon’s “Horror” section this time of year, I won’t say selecting The Manor would be a travesty for your sense. But there’s precious little I would say to aim to eyes to it, other than it probably being necessary for Barbara Hershey-horror-movie completionists.

the manor review hershey

The Manor (2021)



Source: Arrow in the Head

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