THE MANOR – Review
There have been plenty of suspense and horror flicks set in the sequestered confines of nursing homes and mental hospitals for a very good reason. When any of the residents start sensing something amiss, they’re least likely to be believed by those who might help them. When the menace comes from those in charge, the diminished capacity of their victim pools provides excellent cover for their nefarious deeds. Vincent Price comes to mind as one who thrived in the genre. Many others did so before and after his turns at chilling our bones.
In THE MANOR, Barbara Hershey plays a spry granny of 70, who realizes her Parkinson’s is starting to cause a decline she doesn’t want her family, especially her devoted grandson (Nicholas Alexander), to endure with her. She chooses a nursing home that looks good at first but soon starts seeming otherwise. That’s essential for there to be a movie in the first place. Otherwise, all you’d get is a PSA for eldercare. The sense of peril begins with rules cutting off contact with the outside world (gasp! No cell phones!), and even requiring a security code and escort to walk through the woods and garden within the remote, gated property. Several residents act fearful in various ways but it’s hard to tell how grounded or demented they may be. The film perpetuates a classic trope of dreading the attentions of the home’s black cat, which reputedly senses who’s about to die, and hops onto their lap or bed to function as a fatal spoiler alert. Draw your own conclusion about whether the cat feels glee or compassion in those moments.
Hershey finds a trio of relatively alert pals to start feeling somewhat more at home. But a variety of eerie sounds and visions during the nights could mean something wicked her way comes. Inexplicable, unverifiable events cause her to doubt her own sanity. If the menace exists, could it be from a supernatural entity? Is something malicious going on that’s of human origin, as telegraphed by a couple of Nurse Ratched types among the staff? Or could it be both? As the saying goes, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not really out to get you. Similarly, demons and villainous caregivers just might share roles in the same movie.
I’m not sure how much writer/director Axelle Carolyn’s script was more compelling than average, or the extent to which my own age made Hershey’s situation seem more relevant than the slew of analogs watched by my younger selves. After all, I’m almost four years older than her character, and several months older than the actress. What’s certain is that as director, Carolyn dangles many possibilities in an efficient package, maintaining the suspense all the way to an excellent climax. As a star, Hershey’s still got the chops to carry the ball through some challenging territory, putting this one comfortably within the plus side of the quality ledger. And she’s aging more gracefully than your faithful correspondent.
THE MANOR is available to stream on Amazon Prime starting Oct. 8.
RATING: 2 out of 4 stars