Deadly Manor - Deadly Manor(Blu Ray) [Arrow Video - 2020]Deadly Manor was an early 1990’s addition to the old dark/creepy house sub-genre of horror, and while it’s far from a classic of the sub-genre there are some nicely effective moments of dread, original macabre twists, sly slasher touches, and a great feeling of creepy mystery running through much of the film. From Arrow Video here we Blu Ray reissue of this lesser-seen film- featuring a new commentary track, and a few extras.
Released in the year 1990 Deadly Manor( aka Savage Lust) was a Spanish production filmed in upstate New York with a US cast. It was the twenty-third, and last horror film from Spanish auteur José Ramón Larraz- who during the 1970s made some wonderful haunting-to-at time brutally violent horror films in the UK- such as kinky, creepy & at times very bloody female vampire film Vampyres, and troubling country set psychodrama Whirlpool. And while Deadly Manor, is at times very 90’s horror( in a bad way) i.e. bland twenty-something cast, overtly clawing synthetic orchestral & vibe score, and pacing issues- there are touches of Larraz distinctive brand of horror magic through-out the film, which certainly makes it much more worthwhile than much of horror cinema in the 90’s.
The whole starts in a moody-then-bloody sleazed manner, as we see an owl in woodland- as we pan over to a bloody & nude male & female couple lying amongst the trees. Then we kick into the film proper- meeting our main cast- a group of six twenty-something friends who are off to spend a weekend at a lake. The group are somewhat lost, so they pick-up shifting longhaired biker type who claims to know where to find the lake. Hours pass by, and dusk is coming in so they pull into a woodland road to rest for the night- finding an overgrown house. The group break into the house, but fairly soon start to find rather creepy & odd things- like in the garden there’s a wrecked car on a stone pedestal, the house has two coffins in its basement, there’s a collection of human scalps in one of the rooms, and the house is full of pictures of a brunet women often in nude poses. Fairly soon people start dying by knife slashing, though the atmosphere is largely kept low-key & creepy as the group moves around the night-time house- with only in the last twenty minutes we find out what’s really been going on.
As a whole Deadly Manor is very much a film of plus & negatives- so on the positives- we have the atmosphere of dread & creepiness, the inventively macabre plot elements, and the more unsettling erotic touches- like the reveal of a photo album full of pics of dead & nude men & women, or an intense/unsettling lovemaking encounter that may or may not be real.
On the negative side- we have a ropy/wooden cast, playing clichéd horror fodder. Terrible largely bland synth orchestrated soundtrack, the gore is largely toned down, and we get none of Larraz more psycho-sexual violence, and lastly, there's the rather hammy-OTT finale, which doesn't wholly tie things up. On the whole, it’s certainly one of the better 90’s horror film- though it’s far from perfect, so you have to take the good with the bad.
Moving onto the this new Blu Ray presentation from Arrow- and first, off we get a largely nice clear & crisp new scan of the film, though in some of the night time scenes it’s still a tad bit murky. Moving onto the extras- and first, off we get a commentary track from genre experts/Larraz fans Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan. This finds the pair starting off talking about their love of Larraz's work in general, then move onto talk how this & similar euro produced US horror/ slasher films that rather step away from the normal formal. As we move on they discuss Luzzar’s time in America, when he made this and three horror films in the late ’80s/ early ’90s. They talk about some of the stories behind the bizarre plot tropes like the car on a pedestal, a few of the cast who did other genre films, and the more erotic/less gory tone of the film. On the whole, it’s another informative & entertaining track from Ms. Ellinger & Deighan- and is well worth a play.
Next, we get two recent on film interviews- the first is with actress Jennifer Delora who played one of the houses mysterious residents- this runs for thirty-two minutes and sees her discussing how she got the role & the makeup effects she had to wear. The other interview is with the film's producer Brian Smedley-Aston, this runs for seven minutes. We get an archive interview with Larraz, and an image gallery too.
So, it’s great to see Arrow Video digging deep into the 90’s often lacklustre horror output, to uncovering this interesting enough twist on the old dark/creepy house- certainly Deadly Manor is not as worthy as the directors 70’s output, but there are still traces of his distinctively dark atmospheric-at times lightly erotic tinged take on horror.