[Blu-ray Review] Arrow Video Puts a Fresh Coat of Blood-Red Paint on Tropey Slasher Flick, 'Deadly Manor'!
Arrow Video is on a roll lately with restoring films from director Jose Ramon Larraz (having recently released Edge of the Axe), and now they’ve dusted the cobwebs off of his last horror film, Deadly Manor…
…Larraz had a bit of a specialty in making cheap, fun, silly and simplistic horror movies that simultaneously captured the secret essence of 80s slashers, while spoofing them with mixed results. Deadly Manor is no exception. In the film, a group of teens are looking for a lake, and since they’ve apparently never read a map before and can’t seem to find it, they follow a trail to a decrepit mansion, where they decide to stay for the night. Of course, it isn’t long before a killer begins picking them off one by one.
Welcome to Deadly Manor. Watch your step as you enter, and please leave your coat and your brain at the door. This film requires neither.
If you step into Deadly Manor expecting a thinking horror fan’s slasher film, you’ll be wrong. Dead wrong. Nothing makes this more apparent than the blatant stupidity of this particular cast of characters. These people are so dumb, it should be a criminal offense. Once the group (plus recently picked up hitchhiker) arrives at the mansion, it isn’t just the crumbling building that should have them turning right back around. It’s the figure they see in the window. And the monument of a destroyed car in the front yard. Hell, they don’t even care that there’s a newspaper from yesterday in the house, or dusty coffins in the basement!
Nope, THEY THINK NOTHING OF THIS!
Except for Helen (Claudia Franjul), who at first seems to be our intelligent final girl…until she decides to search for somewhere else to stay by wandering off into the woods by herself. I wouldn’t get too attached to Helen if I were you.
The fact is, no one stands out in Deadly Manor, not even Helen’s boyfriend, Tony (Greg Rhodes), who spends the rest of the movie looking for her…by himself. These people are intended only to be human steaks ready to be cut and pulverized and devoured by our eyes. Mmm, that’s good human fodder!
The cast all speaks like test model robots learning the human language, and part of the fun with Deadly Manor is that it becomes impossible to predict who will actually survive the night, since no one strikes us as the hero. The only one who does stand out is genre star Jennifer Delora, who is THE name in this film, having starred in Frankenhooker and Robot Holocaust (which she loves to remind us of in her new interview on the disc). Delora only appears for a few minutes, but wow, does she leave a lasting impression. You can’t miss her. There are shrines to her character everywhere in the house…which the cast also ignores.
Yes, Deadly Manor is a tasty slice of tropey horror pie, decorated with every slasher cliché you can think of. Larraz isn’t going to wow you with the script, as producer Brian Smedley-Aston admits in an interview on the disc, stating that Larraz wasn’t particularly good at writing dialogue. And it shows. Frequently. But there’s a charm to Deadly Manor and its bumbling group of moronic teens. As we watch them split off on their own again and again and again, we almost feel sorry for how little horror film knowledge they seem to have. People, don’t you know that when you find scalps in a rundown mansion, you RUN!?
No, no they don’t. And that’s why when the killer strikes, we can’t help but cheer. Because let’s face it, these Idiocracy castoffs kind of deserve it.
The gothic atmosphere of the film, complete with a rainstorm thundering throughout, just adds to the nostalgic vibe that this underseen slasher flick provides, and I slurped it up like a blood-flavored smoothie. Speaking of which, the kills do leave a lot to be desired, with clearly rubber blades that bend with every throat slice, but the blood in this restoration is rich and cherry red, the way it should look. And for those seeking a slasher that’s a bit more depraved, Deadly Manor is exactly that, evident in opening with two nude bodies covered in blood.
The film isn’t hiding its grotesque face, unlike the rage-a-holic killer.
Larraz may be following the slasher film playbook with a wink and a nod towards the audience, but what sets his films apart is how he tends to flip genre tropes on their head when it comes to gender. Most killers in American slashers are male, but Larraz says women can be killers too with his work, and that includes Deadly Manor. But don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler.
Larraz’s film has a couple twists hiding in the basement that make Deadly Manor an entertaining flick worth taking a tour of the next time it’s raining out and you’re feeling a good old-fashioned slasher that just asks you to sit back on a crusty, blood-splotched recliner and enjoy.
As for the special features, the offerings are like a combination of shiny new furniture and cracked antiques about to snap in half. The commentary by journalists Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan is full of passion and love for the film, as well as the work of Larraz. Neither offers as much insight into the making of the film as you’d typically like, but they’re extremely knowledgeable when it comes to Larraz, and offer fascinating analysis on why he makes the movies he does the way he does, which will make you reconsider the director’s work if you’re not a fan.
The disc also contains a few interviews, one with Smedley-Aston, and one with star Jennifer Delora, which is the standout of the supplements, simply because she is SO AGGRESSIVELY adamant in how much she contributed to the film, which might come off as obnoxious to some, but delighted myself. To be fair to Delora, she does provide a ton of insight into the many positives and negatives of working on the film, like Larraz’s expert ability to work with actors, the complications of hiding her “cookie” during nude scenes, as she describes it, and her disgust over some of her cast members. The disappointment is the all too brief archival interview with Larraz, due to poor video/audio quality.
Arrow Video has put a shiny new coat of paint on Deadly Manor that doesn’t cover up the film’s flaws, but is still a worthwhile disc for any fan of Larraz and his films.
Check out the fill list of special features below, and enter Deadly Manor when it releases February 25th, 2020 from Arrow Video.
By Matt Konopka