Blu-ray Review: Deadly Manor

Houses in the middle of nowhere often lead to nowhere. That’s a basic rule of horror films. José Ramón Larraz had made his mark in 1974 with Vampyres (previously released in Arrow Video’s Blood Hunger: The Films Of Jose Larraz boxset). The Spanish director was living in England when he made the film about two vampire women who would tempt men off a lonely country road and into their hidden estate. During the end of the ’80s, Larraz made a trio of films that partially shot in America and Spain. This allowed the films to be sold to American home video distributors that wanted American product and put on the screen in Europe. Last month we reviewed Edge of the Axe which was the second of the three. The final film Deadly Manor is getting upgraded from VHS to Blu-ray. Like Vampyres, Deadly Manor reminds us that there’s no good reason to visit an out of the way country estate.

A bunch of kids are going on vacation in the countryside for what looks like a little water fun. Turns out in the late ’80s, there was no GPS so the kids are completely lost. Even worse the tires on the SVU aren’t in great shape. They end up picking up Jack (Clark Tufts), a hitchhiker who might have a bit of a clue where to go. But they end up going to a nearby country estate so they can have shelter for the night.. The house is extra spooky with two coffins in the basement, a wrecked car on display in yard, pictures of the same women all over the walls and a shelf with human scalps. But the kids don’t want to leave because the place is cheap. They don’t do much deep thinking as to why there’s a current newspaper inside the deadly manor. Helen who sort of knows about the place decides to go take a walk in the woods without anyone else. Why? She has no clue where she’s going and what’s in the area. Sadly she does have an encounter with a local that doesn’t work out. Amazingly enough when she doesn’t return as night arrives, none of her friends are concerned enough to go out searching. They’re too busy staying out of the rain and debating why there’s a bunch of human scalps in the house. They don’t even seem too concerned about the hitchhiker who is now part of their fun.

While Deadly Manor isn’t nearly as atmospheric and cool as Vampyres, this teen body count flick is hilariously entertaining. If you are into screaming at the dumb teenagers in a scary movie, you’ll be unloading a lot of “What are you thinking!?” at your HDTV. The characters are so oblivious to their circumstances. And yet it’s easy accept their rational to not get back on the highway and look for a cheap motel. Why? Because we know people check into cheap motels and get slaughtered too. Even if they make it to their campsite, what are the odds that a stranger will stumble out of the woods and slaughter them with a manchette? Teenagers in the ’80s were just doomed.

When the real killers are unmasked and discover why they turned into homicidal maniacs, there’s no disappointment. Indeed it’s a pretty impactful scene the links so much of the house together. It also leads to the house being unlinked with their dark secret spilling all over the floor. There’s no need to expose much except Jennifer Delora plays a big role since she’s the woman in all the photos around the house. Delora was in Young Nurses in Love, Robot Holocaust, Bedroom Eyes II and Frankenhooker. She was a straight to video superstar.

Deadly Manor might have come at the end of the teen slasher film, but doesn’t deserve to be viewed as the last in line. The young cast is pretty much all unknown actors so there’s no clue as to who is going to be the next victim. At anytime, they can turn the wrong corner and meet a deadly fate. The strange part is their friends will make up an optimistic story about what could have happened so they don’t have to leave the room.

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The transfer looks better than it has ever looked in North America. You’ll be able to see all the creepy things that should have scared the teens out of the house. The Audio is LCPM 1.0 Mono. The levels really let you enjoy Cengiz Yaltkaya’s hypnotic score that will make you feel that there’s no reason to run from the house. The movie has English subtitles.

Audio Commentary from Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan. The two writers gives deep background on the production and the cast.

House of Whacks (32:53) interviews actress Jennifer Delora. She didn’t have to audition for the role since at this point in her career she was hosting and acting in the Playboy Channel’s Electric Blue series. Delora is a hoot as she shares a lot of memories of the production. She points out how she wasn’t too picky on her scripts.

Making a Killing (7:03) is a chat with producer Brian Smeldley-Aston. He had worked with Jose Larraz on Vampyres so they had a long creative friendship. They always swore they needed to re-edit Rest In Pieces and he ended up dealing with producing Deadly Manor since the other producer was handling the elements of Spain. Brian oversaw the casting since Jose didn’t arrive in America with his director of photography until four days before the start of the shoot.

Archival Interview with Jose Larraz (3:42) is a segment from a longer interview. He speaks of making the film.

“Savage Lust” VHS Trailer (1:00) really gives away a bunch of the hidden secrets. You might not want to watch this until after the film.

Original Promo (4:23) looks like it was transferred off an EP speed VHS dupe. This seems the longer cut to entice mom and pop video stores into buying a copy for the shelves.

Image Gallery (2:50) includes behind the scenes shots of Jose working with the young cast, and promo shots.

Arrow Video presents Deadly Manor. Directed by: George Mihalka. Screenplay by: Larry Ganem, José Ramón Larraz & Brian Smedley-Aston. Starring: Clark Tufts, Greg Rhodes, Claudia Franjul, Mark Irish & Jennifer Delora. Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 86 minutes. Released: February 25, 2020.

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