Friday, October 08, 2021

Welcome to the Blumhouse: The Manor

Judith Albright is checking into an assisted living facility housed in a converted mansion. The architecture is early American gothic and the staff has a specialization in gaslighting. The question is to what end? Albright must figure out their game before it is too late in screenwriter-director Axelle Carolyn’s The Manor, one of the Welcome to the Blumhouse features premiering today on Amazon Prime.

As a former dancer, Albright was always physically healthy and even after a mild stroke, she is still of sound mind. However, she believes she should have a little help just in case, so she voluntarily moves into what looks like a nice facility. Unfortunately, the staff turns out to be a bit more controlling than she expected, especially about things like cell phones and the front door code. Her ailing roommate is also petrified with the anticipation that she could die very soon. It turns out her fears are well grounded.

Soon, Albright starts to believe she cold be next. She has vivid nightmares of a demonic figure and the staff appears to be playing mind-games with her. Yet, their diagnosis of schizophrenic Alzheimer’s protects them from all her accusations. Only her beloved Josh will half-listen to her, but even he is fast losing faith.

The Manor Carolyn skillfully uses the indignities that come with aging to intensify the suspense. We can clearly see they’re out to get her, but it is equally obvious nobody will believe it, due to society’s condescending assumptions. In some ways, The Manor could be considered a Get Out for oldsters, but it is actually a much more effective film.

Barbara Hershey is terrific as Albright. So many of us always associate her with her classic 1980s and 1990s roles (as in
Hannah and Her Sisters, Tune in Tomorrow, and The Entity), so it is pretty mind-blowing seeing her in a septuagenarian role (which could also be called acting her age), but she does so with great humor and vitality. She also brings a distinctive doesn’t-suffer-fools-gladly attitude that well serves the character, while compounding the precariousness of her situation.

Most importantly, Hershey shares some wonderful chemistry with Nicholas Alexander, as her loyal grandson. Their scenes together really make the film click. Bruce Davison adds some color as a weirdly spry fellow resident. The same is also true of Jill Larsen, who previously starred in the dementia-themed horror film,
The Taking of Deborah Logan.

Carolyn (who also helmed the highly amusing “Dead and Breakfast” installment of
Creepshow) definitely keeps The Manor snappy, building paranoid dread from both uncanny and very real-world sources. It makes some forceful points about the aging experience, without getting in the way of the evil gaslighting business. Enthusiastically recommended, Welcome to the Blumhouse: The Manor starts streaming today (10/8) on Amazon Prime.