The second “double feature” of Amazon Prime’s “Welcome to the Blumhouse” series is a smart paring that has similar themes, female protagonists, and very different settings. “The Manor” and “Madres” are both good examples of Jason Blum’s successful production model where he gives new and unique writers/directors just enough money and support to make a quality version of their stories. In each of the films in the Blumhouse catalog, it is clear the film either flies or falters solely on the vision of the director.
“The Manor” tells the story of an elderly woman, Judith (Barbara Hershey), that has just moved into a retirement home. It appears to be a nice place and most of the residents are friendly with the possible exception of Judith’s roommate. The only misgivings Judith has at first are with the rules. The moment her family leaves, her cellphone is confiscated. Always a bad sign in a horror movie! Judith soon begins to experience the darker side of the manor. She sees a dark shadowy creature prowling the halls. Her demented roommate becomes increasingly disturbed while offering ominous warnings. Of course, no one, not even her family, believes her. Doctors suggest she might be experiencing the early stages of dementia.
If all this sounds a bit familiar, it’s supposed to. Writer/Director Axelle Carolyn is very familiar with the genre, writing a well recieved 2009 non-fiction book called “Horror Movies In The New Millennium.” More recently she also wrote and directed 2015’s horror anthology “Tales of Halloween.” She is very aware of all the tropes and hopes the viewers are as well. At one point a character quips, perhaps a bit too on the nose, “What a cliche!”
The result is a fun yet forgettable light horror flick that’s perfect for streaming on the nights leading up to Halloween.
“Madres” opens as a young Hispanic couple moves to a California farming town in the ’70s. Beto (Tenoch Huerta) has just accepted his first management job at the farm, and his wife Diana (Ariana Guerra) is expecting their first child. Both are eager to assimilate with the locals, but a cloud of lightly veiled racism hangs over everything. Beto’s boss makes an offhand comment about being excited to finally have a “real Mexican” working for him, and Diana is ostracized by others for being “too white.” Few things feel more lonely than moving to a new town and then being constantly reminded you don’t really fit in anywhere.
Diana spends most of her days at home writing a book, although it’s more like standing around trying to think of a subject than actually writing. It’s not long until Diana begins to wonder if she’s actually alone. She sees things that can’t be explained and eventually stumbles upon research from the previous homeowner that implies the farm is using chemicals that cause miscarriages. Her attempt to protect her own child and expose what the farm is doing puts her at odds with almost everyone. When the truth finally comes out, it’s darker than expected, and actually rooted in truth. “Madres” is less ambitious but very similar in tone to “Get Out.”
Neither of these films is big on scares or gore, but both are well made and enjoyable, especially during the spookiest month of the year!
To learn more about the previous Double Feature, check out our review on “Black as Night” & “Bingo Hell”
Welcome to the Blumhouse Presents
- "The Manor"