Deadly Manor Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Arrow Video
Directed by José Ramón Larraz
Written by José Ramón Larraz and Brian Smedley-Aston
1990, 82 minutes, Not Rated
Released on February 18th, 2020
Clark Tufts as Jack
Greg Rhodes as Tony
Claudia Franjul as Helen
Mark Irish as Rod
Liz Hitchler as Susan
Jerry Kernion as Peter
Kathleen Patane as Anne
A group of friends drive aimlessly toward a lake for a weekend getaway. They ask a hitchhiker for directions and offer him a ride. After a few hours they decide to pull off the main road and stop for the night at a secluded mansion that appears abandoned. A wrecked car is parked in the garden as a monument or shrine and a photograph of a beautiful woman rests in the passenger seat. One of the kids believes the place is evil and refuses to stay, and her friends give her a hard time as they opt to break in to the house before the rain comes. Inside, they find coffins in the basement and a room with a collection of photographs of the same mystery woman. The hitchhiker is still hanging out with the gang and an article in the newspaper reveals he is wanted by the police. Over the next several hours, someone begins murdering the trespassers and hiding the bodies. Is the killer someone they know or is there something far more sinister going on?
In the 1980s, countless horror films featuring masked psychopaths stalking and slashing attractive teenagers filled the screen. Halloween and Friday the 13th led the pack, ushering in a wave of imitators that followed the formula to a T. The most common scenarios focused on a popular holiday (My Bloody Valentine) or school activity (Prom Night), while others found the kids in peril on vacation or at summer camp (The Burning). The victims were primarily rowdy kids who broke society’s rules and had premarital sex or did drugs, while the survivors tended to be reserved, virginal young ladies smart enough to avoid slaughter.
The slasher film was primarily a North American phenomenon, but there were several European entries worth mentioning, including Pieces (Spain) and The New York Ripper (Italy). The market became oversaturated and audiences were moving on to different types of chills thanks in large part to the game changing A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and the introduction of “rubber reality”. By the end of the decade the slasher subgenre was all but dead with a few minor exceptions. Spanish director José Ramón Larraz (Vampyres) attempted to revive the market with a trio of late-to-the-party titles, including Rest in Pieces (1987), Edge of the Axe (1988) and Deadly Manor (1990).
With Deadly Manor (aka Savage Lust), Larraz excels when it comes to loading his picture with overly-familiar tropes and clichés. What makes this movie special, however, is the absolute bonkers level of ridiculous behavior of its characters. When we meet the group they are on their way to a lake without anyone knowing where it is. They pick up a hitchhiker and drive him around for hours before encouraging him to spend the night with them in an old dark house. Upon arrival, one of their friends runs away in terror, but nobody seems to mind and they have no problem with breaking and entering. When exploring the house they find coffins in the basement and a collection of human scalps in jars, but dismiss it as though it were normal – and all of this happens within the first twenty minutes of the film!
The movie lacks any form of logic and despite several red herrings offers a totally irrational explanation for the killings and one of the most ludicrous endings the genre has to offer. It takes a while for anything to happen – too long in fact – but once the slashing finally begins, it moves at a better pace. Best viewed with drinks and a group of friends, Deadly Manor offers a “so bad it’s good” experience with its terrible dialogue and worse acting. Die-hard slasher fans will appreciate the effort, but more discerning viewers will want to look elsewhere for thrills.
Video and Audio:
Previously available in only a murky VHS transfer, the film comes to life with a new 2K scan and restoration of the original camera negative. Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the image is something of a revelation with its bright colors and rich detail. Black levels are deep and flesh tones appear natural throughout.
An uncompressed DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track delivers clean and understandable dialogue levels with well-balanced music and effects cues.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
Film critics Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan are big fans and defenders of director José Larraz and his odd style of storytelling. They share their thoughts on the characters and dialogue and the lackluster performances by the cast. Other topics include analyzing the European approach to the American slasher film and recurring themes in Larraz’s films. Ellinger reads from an article written by a journalist on set during filming and Deighan is quick to point out the more absurd elements of the plot making for an entertaining listening experience.
Actress Jennifer Delora remembers her time on this film in House of Whacks (33 minutes). This is one of the best interviews I have seen in quite a while, as she is very frank and shares her opinions freely. She talks about the trusting relationship she made with the director, remembers the special make-up process and blasts her co-star for his behavior during their sex scene. This segment is definitely worth checking out.
In Making a Killing (7 minutes), producer Brian Smedley-Aston tells of his involvement with the production, from overseeing casting to having a hand in the script. He admits the film is too dialogue-heavy and remembers the deleted sequence where the house is burned down. He shares his thoughts on the director and executive producer and says this was a challenging shoot.
In an archival interview from the mid-‘90s (4 minutes), director Jose Larraz recounts the story of the actor drama during the shooting of the sex scene and the decision to use a body double to complete the scene.
The original trailer under the title Savage Lust is one of the most spoiler-heavy displays I have ever seen. Definitely watch this one only after seeing the film.
An extended promo reel (4 minutes) offers highlights of the movie edited together to gain attention likely for distribution.
A still gallery plays as a rapidly moving slideshow (3 minutes) and is filled with promotional shots and behind-the-scenes images.
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