Deadly Manor Movie Review
Written by Joanna K. Neilson
Released by Arrow Films
Directed by José Ramón Larraz
Written by José Ramón Larraz and Larry Ganem
1990, 86 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
Released on 17th February 2020
Clark Tufts as Jack
Greg Rhodes as Tony
Claudia Franjul as Helen
Mark Irish as Rod
Liz Hitchler as Susan
Deadly Manor opens with a promisingly lurid, nasty sequence. Naked corpses – suspiciously healthy-looking, sprawl in the long grass beside a nasty looking bike crash, and whoever we're following here seems to revel in the awful scene. Clearly, something terrible is afoot, but exactly what happened remains a mystery.
Then, we immediately enter more familiar territory. A bunch of obnoxious 'teenage' friends – including their mandatory oafish stoner-buddy - have driven out to the middle of the woods looking for a lake – with a name none of them can pronounce. On the way they pick up a mysterious hitch-hiker with a fondness for denim and looking vaguely cynical – he's definitely not on the run from the cops, either! As they argue where to go to find the lake, and the day gets later, the obnoxious gang opts to take shelter in a mysterious old mansion house full of sinister secrets.
It's soon really obvious that they should have stayed in their car until morning.
At the very least, guys, don't split up!
As an early 1990s horror movie, this strikes a very uneven balance between schlocky horror, graphic sex, and goofball humour. The victims/friends are drawn with the lightest sketches, although a nice mystery is drawn around the numerous photographs of a beautiful woman (often naked) and the ever widening crack splitting into a nearby wall. It's a shame that the dialogue is cringy all the way through. If anything is screaming out for a Buffy-esque script polish, it’s this. Awkwardly delivered jokes, constantly repeated gripes about how spooky the house is and many observations that they really, really should leave. But they don’t, of course. The entitled, whiny characters are people you’d probably murder on general principle – and especially for breaking into your house and poking around.
Of course, if you keep unpleasant mementos of your murderous doings in secret cupboards, you're just asking for this kind of thing to happen. As some of the gang investigates their refuge, they very slowly figure out something is terribly wrong, in between their griping and shagging anyway. For a lot of it, I was distracted by the stoner's Godzilla T-Shirt! The build up of mystery does eventually pay off – and scarlet blood begins to flow... Mostly in the same way – over and over again. Perhaps we're spoiled by the varieties of kills in modern horror. But it's all presented well and is clearly trying to join the Giallo family, with lurid throat-slashings and scary (and scared) women, yet trying to appeal to Friday the 13th fans at the same time. This means that the surprisingly graphic sex scene and photos of nudity are greatly at odds with the goofy tone used in the rest of the film and it gives the story a slightly schizophrenic feel.
Gripes aside, this really is a gorgeous high-def restoration and lovely to look at, although it's also the kind of film that seems like it’s been dubbed from Italian, but actually it isn’t. I can recommend it as a cheerfully exploitative horror, with some great scenery and a few fantastic reveals, even if it feels caught between the schlocky dumbassery of the 1980s slashers, and postmodern knowingness of late 1990s horror. It's right on the cusp of being very good, seriously let down by paper thin characters. It's just a shame that the final survivor isn’t really built up enough to warrant me giving a crap. Mostly, the film is far more interested in two of the men and that feels like something was planned that didn't quite pay off. However, with a little patience, this actually is an enjoyable, gory little horror I'm glad I got a chance to see.
This page includes affiliate links where Horror DNA may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.