Review: Barbara Hershey Can't Save 'Welcome To The Blumhouse: The Manor'

by Derek Deskins

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday October 13, 2021

'Welcome To The Blumhouse: The Manor'
'Welcome To The Blumhouse: The Manor'  (Source:Amazon Prime)

I have been struggling to figure out what to do with Amazon Prime's "Welcome to the Blumhouse" series of films. The ongoing collaboration between Amazon and Blumhouse Productions looks to focus on films with "distinctive vision[s] and unique perspective[s] on common themes," and largely come from new voices in the industry (i.e., first-time feature directors).

All of this in concept is absolutely fantastic, especially as many of these first-time filmmakers are of backgrounds that are often overlooked (read: Non-white, non-male). However, in execution many of the films leave something to be desired. "The Manor," one of the most recent additions to the series, suffers from many of the same problems as its brethren.

Judith Albright seems younger than her age. The former dancer and current teacher has young students and a grandson that adore her, and, for the most part, she has no trouble keeping up. However, on her 70th birthday, Judith suffers a minor stroke. After recovering, and in hopes of not being viewed as a burden, she makes the decision to move into a nearby assisted living home. Shortly after moving in she starts to notice some weird occurrences, and begins to think that there just may be something supernatural and dangerous at work.

"The Manor," like other "Welcome to the Blumhouse" movies, resides in an in-between space of media. These are films that are built with all of the intent of a cinematic experience, but with no plans to ever hit the big screen. In essence, these are made-for-TV films (or more appropriately for our current age, "made-for-streaming"). As such, "The Manor" struggles to feel like something consequential, for its aspirations greatly outpace its budgetary and talent limitations.

On screen, "The Manor" has some interesting concepts that falter before becoming fully-developed ideas. The script is the movie's largest barrier to success. The dialogue is unnatural and overburdened with exposition. Unable to determine an elegant way to convey the story, writer-director Axelle Carolyn saddles her characters with paragraphs of plot explanation. The exposition is so blatant and lazy that often characters are forced to change subjects mid-conversation, without provocation or intent other than a slavish devotion to the script. It makes for awkward interactions that prevent the audience from getting to know the characters beyond exposition delivery devices.

Exacerbating this exposition issue is Carolyn's need to have every character soliloquize on whatever emotionally overwrought subject they can conjure. These monologues do little for the overall film, and only serve to bring any developing tension to an abrupt halt. As a rule, I veer away from spoiling plot developments in reviews, but perhaps the film's greatest sin is the character assassination that is its ending. I won't get into the details of these plot points; however, it should be said that the film's final turn destroys any goodwill that the characters have developed, and seems to attack the very subject that film aims to humanize: The elderly.

"The Manor's" many failures are all the more frustrating because of its cast. Living legend Barbara Hershey does her best to make the film captivating, but that ability resides outside of her prodigious skill set. Not even a supporting turn from Bruce Davison is enough to get this one over the finish line. As it is, "The Manor" is a stylistic mess that struggles to terrify, or even captivate, for its meager runtime.

"The Manor" is streaming on Amazon Prime.