By Troy Ribeiro
Film: 'The Manor' (Streaming on Amazon Prime). Duration: 96 minutes.
Director: Axelle Carolyn. Cast: Katie Amanda Keane, Fran Bennett, Nicholas Alexander, Bruce Davison, Barbara Hershey, Shelley Robertson, Stacey Travis, Nancy Linehan Charles, Jill Larson and Ciera Payton,
IANS Rating: ***
Despite the owls hooting, birds cawing, and the wood creaking, there is nothing eerie or creepy in Director Axelle Carolyn's 'The Manor'. It is not a scary film, but a robust haunting drama of terror that will make you think twice before putting your loved ones into an old-age home.
The film begins on an innocuous note with a sprightly Judith (Barbara Hershey) celebrating her seventieth birthday with her near and dear ones. During the celebrations, she falls as a result of a stroke.
Three months later, after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, Judith moves into Golden Sun Manor Nursing Home, an assisted living facility. She claims that being an independent person, she wouldn't want her family to witness her "being diminished".
Judith's daughter Barbara (Katie Amanda Keane) is cool with her mother's decision. But Barbara's son Josh (Nicholas Alexander) is not too happy about his grandmother's resolve. He argues with his mother that when he was young, his grandma was there to take care of him and now it's time "for us to take care of her". The moment captures the bond between the young grandson and his grandma.
While outwardly the facility appears to be a perfect place for its senior citizens, Judith is taken aback by the handling of the inmates after she is made aware of the fine-print she signed during admission. Being a free-spirited person, she feels bogged down by her own doing, especially after she witnesses strange occurrences and has nightmarish visions.
As residents begin to die mysteriously, Judith is convinced that a sinister presence is haunting the massive estate. She frantically tries to escape even as her devoted grandson doubts her sanity and not the demons she fears. How she convinces her grandson to help her forms the crux of the story.
Just like how Roland (Bruce Davidson), a fellow resident at the Manor, mentioned to Judith when she arrived, "It takes a bit of a time, but ultimately, all fit in." Similarly, the screenplay, too, moving on at a slow pace and an even note, like a slice-of-life film, ticks all the boxes of a good film that is not too serious about death or senility.
Barbara Hershey looks fab as the septuagenarian and she does give a convincing performance. She is aptly supported by the entire cast.
Overall, on the production front, the principal set of 'The Manor', though majestic in appearance, is hardly exploited. Cinematographer Andreas Sanchez's frames are atmospheric and the sound design is ominous, elevating the viewing experience.
(Troy Ribeiro can be contacted at email@example.com)