starring Barbara Hershey, Bruce Davison, Nicholas Alexander, Jill Larson
written and directed by Axelle Carolyn
by Walter Chaw Edited like a dog would edit something in a room full of tennis ball-throwing squirrels, Axelle Carolyn's The Manor is terrible by almost every standard measure of quality. Carolyn's own script is tediously overwritten, weighed down by goth-with-a-clove-at-the-all-night-coffee-shop-cum-bookstore notes like, "Oh, wormwood!" and, "I don't know plants but I do know absinthe!" and ironic jokes about Elizabeth Bathory. The only thing missing is a dramatic recitation of a line from "Troilus and Cressida," a red rose held in a harlequin's flourish, and an invitation to a game of chess. Yet despite all the smug listing-off of genre bona fides, all the strained lines and lines upon lines, it still leans heavily on a hilarious bit of exposition obviously inserted in post ("It's your fucking hair, Roland!") at the end as if the lead up to this moment weren't already extravagantly, explicitly spelled out, pitched to the most disinterested student in class. At least one of the alleged jump-scares is telegraphed by the reaction shot before the scare, and all that broaching of serious subjects such as elder abuse in nursing homes, dementia, and privatized healthcare for profit is handled without the slightest hint of the emotional intelligence necessary to deal with them in a substantive or respectful way. Honestly, it would be more offensive if it weren't so clearly the product of incompetence. I don't even know why it's called "The Manor."