THE MANOR is part of Amazon’s Welcome to the Blumhouse film series. Last year, they released four horror films during the spooky viewing season, and this year they are doing the same. THE MANOR is about a 70-year old grandmother, Judith Albright (Barbara Hershey), who moves to a nursing home after suffering a mild stroke and learns a malevolent force is killing the senior residents. Written and directed by Axelle Carolyn, the film is reminiscent of Insidious but lacks the building dread. The mystery and discussion around elderly treatment by family and facilities, plus the obsession with being young, make THE MANOR worth a view but only once given its predictability.
The film opens with Judith’s 70th birthday party. After she collapses from a stroke and opts to move into the creepy, old school manor nursing home, you know something isn’t right about this place. It reminded me of The Twilight Zone’s “Kick the Can” episode. Though in THE MANOR, there are no harmless childhood games that miraculously turn the elderly into kids. Audiences, especially horror fans, might not be surprised by the turns in the film. However, the story keeps audiences invested.
It’s challenging for the elderly to feel so young in spirit but know they can’t do what they once did. Worse yet, people in society—even family—regard the elderly as a burden. Often they are put in homes, not for their best interests but because a family member does not want the responsibility. Fellow residents caution Judith to prepare for when her family eventually stops visiting because it is inevitable, like aging. It’s tragic someone who has lived so long and seen so much isn’t sought out but discounted. When Judith sees a presence in her shared room, they suggest her age caused the hallucination, in effect, gaslighting her.
There’s also the question about how trustworthy authority figures are because the people in power at the nursing home exploit their authoritative positions to prey on the seniors. They know they are unwanted, and no one will believe them. Judith should have bounced the moment they said no phones were allowed in the nursing home at all. That was a massive red flag because why wouldn’t they let the senior citizens communicate with the outside world?
I love Barbara Hershey as Judith Albright. She is an excellent actress, and she conveys the character’s ambivalent emotions about aging. On the one hand, Judith appears accepting of aging, but on the other, she constantly refers to her grandson, Josh (Nicholas Alexander), as the one who “keeps [her] young.” Nicholas Alexander does a great job playing the loving, affectionate grandson. His relationship with his grandmother is thriving, while Josh’s relationship with his mother, Barbara (Katie A. Keane), is strained. Some of that strain is due to how close Josh and Judith are, and we never learn about the uncomfortable relationship between Judith and Barbara.
For me, the film was entertaining, but the scares didn’t affect me at all. I didn’t jump, scream or even twitch. Judith’s grudging acceptance of age does make the end unsurprising, but I was still rooting for her through most of the film. The villains may as well have worn signs or introduced themselves as villains because they were cellophane clear. During the Halloween season, truthfully year-round, I like my horror terrifying. I want scared to turn off the lights kinds of terror. THE MANOR entertains and, if you don’t like your horror bone-chilling, this is a film you’ll enjoy. I just wish Blumhouse moved on from what now feels like formulaic popcorn entertainment. It’s good, but I wanted something tastier. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Will I watch it again? Probably not.
THE MANOR is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video as part of their Welcome to the Blumhouse film series.