The Horrors of Aging are Depicted in Dark Blumhouse Chiller The Manor (2021)
Title: The Manor
First Non-Festival Release: October 8, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Axelle Carolyn
Writer: Axelle Carolyn
Runtime: 81 Minutes
Starring: Barbara Hershey, Nicholas Alexander, Bruce Davison
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Judith (Barbara Hershey) is adamant about her independence but understands that after her stroke she needs to get more advanced treatment than her daughter (Katie Keane) and grandson Josh (Nicholas Alexander) can provide at home. The family decides on a historic nursing home in town. She settles in and makes some friends with the residents while reluctantly following the strict rules which prevent her from using a phone or going outside unaccompanied. Her roommate warns her about the insidious happenings inside the nursing home before dying in Judith’s arms. She’ll have to put the pieces together if she has any hope of living through this experience.
The horrors of aging are deconstructed in horrifying ways in creepy Blumhouse production The Manor.
A predictable but enjoyable chiller, The Manor gets points for being the most enjoyable “Welcome to the Blumhouse” offering this year. It is refreshing to see the central relationship in a horror film be between grandmother and grandson. This dynamic is not well explored in horror and Barbara Hershey and Nicholas Alexander do a great job portraying the duo. Both Judith and Josh care for each other dearly and clearly connect more than they do with Barbara, their daughter/mother. Hershey is an absolute joy to watch. She portrays Judith like the firecracker she is without forgetting what makes her human.
Even paced and dark, The Manor knows it isn’t out to set the world on fire with its story. I loved the look of the creature in the night that visits Judith. It’s creepy and memorable, which is all you can ask for in a movie like this. The effects are also well-done considering how hard it is to describe. Sometimes it gets a little repetitive, but it makes up for it by putting its fantastic lead front and center. Speaking of which, Judith has the best dialogue in the entire film. She is not afraid to say what is on her mind nor does she mind if others are hurt by her words. Her energy is a nice change of pace from what older protagonists are often given in horror.
The real horror behind The Manor lurks in its depiction of elder abuse. Most humans find aging scary, especially after losing their loved ones over the course of their life. What makes it even more terrifying is the gradual loss of agency and dignity. I couldn’t help but cringe in horror at the ways Judith and others are treated by staff at the nursing home. Sure, this is partly due to the underlying horror of the operation but also serves as a nice parallel to real life. Even if one’s mental faculties are deteriorating, they deserve to be respected and treated as an adult.
There’s also some nice commentary on aging naturally versus fighting it. Comments are made at the expense of different residents who try to relive their youth either via makeup, dress, or even activity level. This comes into play even more towards the ending, which is certainly controversial among those that have seen it. It goes in a direction that I did not expect, which is both frustrating and welcome simultaneously. I like that The Manor isn’t as straightforward with its morality that others may want it to be.
A nice surprise, The Manor works as a chilling tale of the fears that weigh us down as we inch closer to death. A strong lead performance and its unique setting help differentiate it from hundreds of other haunters released during the Halloween season. It loses some points for an unsatisfying ending and weak plot. It may not be the most original film of the year, but it has a lot of heart to make it worth a watch. Check into The Manor for some good old fashioned supernatural scares.
Overall Score? 6.5/10