Saturday, October 1, 2011

Deadly Manor (1990)

 Okay, image problems. For some reason, none of the discs in The Horror Collection will play on Windows Media Player, so my reviews for all six films will unfortunately be image free.

Ok, starting off my Halloween special for The Horror Collection: Six Tales of Terror is Deadly Manor, a 1990 slasher flick by Spanish director Jose Ramon Larraz.

Deadly Manor centres on a group of friends driving through the forest, looking for 'Lake Wapacanopo'. After picking up a shady hitchhiker, the group find themselves off-road. They find a seemingly abandoned manor and as it's getting dark and starting to rain, they decide to camp out in the derelict building.

The film starts off hilariously bad. After the opening credits and shots of corpses by a crunched-up car, we cut to our mains driving. The actors playing them are all very bad and it's very funny (though their acting does get better as the film goes on). Also funny are the dated references and when the music becomes outright zany! It was at this point in the movie-about eight minutes in-that I was gonna be seriously disappointed if it didn't turn out to be a road-trip comedy! Though fortunately or unfortunately (I'm still not sure which), the film does veer off into horror. And apparently, the film's composer(s) couldn't resist doing more zany music for the score, so for a majority of the movie, we don't hear a single bar of music.

So the group stumble upon the old mansion and one of the group, Helen (Claudia Franjul), a wise Latino woman cliche sees one of the house's windows be shut by an unseen person. So naturally she immediately comes to the conclusion that the house is evil. After failing to convince everyone to leave, she runs off. The rest of the group find a demolished car as a shrine, with a photo of a woman inside. They go inside the house just as it gets dark, and while they're under a roof, Helen is not so lucky...

In the house they encounter more oddities. The house is filled with photos of the mysterious woman from the car's photo, one of the walls starts to crack heavily and the shrine-car's horn starts beeping, apparently on its own. And a snake emerges from the cracked wall...yeah...a snake in the obviously cold, rainy weather this movie takes place in. This would make sense if the movie's villains  were supernatural, but they're not. Also found is a copy of the previous day's paper.

Though the characters are fun, they are unbelievably dense! So you've found a dingy house that's mocked up to be a shrine, which has a recent newspaper? Nah, nobody could possibly live here! So this house has coffins in the basement? Well they are empty after all! So you've found a scrapbook full of photos showing several naked, propped up corpses, as well as a cupboard with jars full of scalps? Gee, this house can't be that bad! *facepalm*. And yes, the characters really do only show minimal and temporary shock at the sight of JARS FILLED WITH SEVERED HUMAN SCALPS!

So as it turns out, the hitcher, Jack (Clark Tufts) is really a criminal as shown by the frontpage article on the newspaper. Nobody finds this out though, as he burns the paper (for once I'd like to see a horror movie which has a hitchhiker as a good guy). Then Helen's boyfriend Tony (Greg Rhodes) does some further exploring of the house while everyone else is asleep. He drops asleep himself on a bed, then has dream sex with a redhead. Then whoever's watching this film realizes that the movie's about to hit the hour mark and only one person has died so far!

The film is pretty slow paced, but it doesn't really matter. That first hour builds up the characters (sort of) and builds up the mystery of the house. If anyone was bored however at the film's first hour, then the last half-hour certainly makes up for it.

In the film's last third, everyone starts dropping like flies. One guy gets his neck broken, another gets his throat sliced open, a girl gets her throat slitted and hung upside down, and in a rare break of tradition, the hitcher has nothing to do with the film's killer's (despite his sinister smiling throughout the film) and he himself has his throat cut. At the climax, there's only one survivor left, and it's up to her to find out who these killers are.

The killers turn out to be the mysterious redhead from Tony's dream sex, Amanda (Jennifer Delora) and her husband Alfred (William Russel). They were a happy couple until they were terrorized by bikers and their car crashed. While Alfred was no worse for wear, Amanda was severely disfigured and wore a mask from then on. They soon got their revenge on the bikers and started to kill anyone who went near their house.

They are about to kill the final girl when the cops burst in and fill Alfred full of lead. And then something totally unexpected happens. Amanda, the killer in a slasher film is arrested! Not killed by the final girl, or even killed by the cops, she's seriously arrested!

So, that was Deadly Manor. It was a fun little slasher film that, despite bad (at first) acting and a lot of the film shrouded in darkness, making it hard to see, was still fun. The gore effects were mainly used in the last half-hour and they are fine. Some of the acting is also fun, namely William Russel as Alfred (who was also Ian on (Classic) Doctor Who, which surprised me to no end!).

What was especially good about the film is the unpredictability of who will survive. The wise and possibly psychic Latino woman is the first to die and her boyfriend who has the majority of the screen-time dies as well. In the end, the final girl is one of the characters who's had the least amount of screen-time and dialogue! Also, none of the characters were unlikable (minus the killers), making the film that much better.

What I also liked about the movie was its Scooby Doo ending. The evil throughout the films is implied to be supernatural until the end, when it's revealed to be simply human, not a ghost, demon or immortal super-strong-hockey-player. Also funny is when Amanda manages to even get a "I'll get you, and your dumb dog too" style line at the end as well, before being taken away in handcuffs by the police.

So, that was Deadly Manor. In closing, it was an entertaining slasher film that actually tried to do something slightly varied during the dying days of the genre.


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