Discover the final horror from one of the genre’s unsung greats

Deadly Manor (1990)

After a prologue showing woods at night, and a car driving away from a pair of bloody, naked bodies lying besides a fallen motorcycle, Deadly Manor (aka Savage Lust) cuts to a truck driving in broad daylight with a giant statue of a burger-bearing ‘Big Boy’ mascot (from the popular American restaurant chain) as its haul.

This is a way for Spanish director José Ramón Larraz not just to offer a foretaste of the murderous perversion to come, but also to establish the setting of his film, like its predecessor Edge of the Axe, in an America that is – in more than one sense – generic. For, derivative and not a little dull, Deadly Manor is horror’s equivalent of fast food, delivering exactly what viewers expect in portion-controlled, bland form.

The film was actually shot in upstate New York, but Larraz might equally, as with his previous features, have filmed all or parts of it in his home country. After all, while the remote and spooky mansion house of the title may boast among its features, as one character absurdly puts it in a recap seemingly designed for the trailer, “a smashed car outside, coffins in the basement, and scalps in the closet,” the one thing it never accommodates is authenticity.

The sense of artifice that quickly settles in is essential to the film’s charm, as are some highly idiosyncratic touches in the over-the-top climax – although elsewhere, the poor acting and tone-deaf, nuance-free dialogue will have you dying for more red sauce just to make it seem less like an insipid, production-line offering.

Mysterious hitchhiker Jack (Clark Tufts) gets off the truck, and thumbs a ride with six passing co-eds who are hoping that he will help guide them to Lake Wapakonope where they intend to go camping. Savvy viewers will recognise two distinct directions that this opening appears to be taking: the hitchhiker hell from the beginning of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and the lakeside slashing of Friday the 13th. Before it can get to either of these destinations, Rod (Mark Irish) will turn off the highway looking for a place to rest for the night.

“Do you know where this roads leads to?” asks the group’s most nervous member Helen (Claudia Franjul), articulating the question that viewers may also be asking themselves. In a sense it is obviously leading to the manor house promised by the title, but even when it gets there, the characters keep suggesting established horror templates for a scenario that has not yet revealed its true identity.

So Peter (Jerry Kernion) – who wears a Godzilla T-shirt to signify his status as a horror fan – suggests jokingly that the figure whom only Helen saw at the upstairs window might be “a biohazard mutant zombie”; and when Helen insists that the house is “evil”, Peter again mocks her with an explicit reference to The Exorcist: “Maybe you’ll spit up peas soup and your head’ll turn around!” Peter expressly alludes to Dracula even before they discover the two coffins (marked ‘Amanda’ and ‘Alfred’) in the basement, and later wonders aloud: “What next? Uncle Fester on the patio?”

There are other elements of the manor that fit none of these prescribed genre models: the burnt-out car placed like a monument on a concrete pedestal outside the house; or the interior walls festooned with pictures of the same pretty (but “cruel” looking) woman; or the closet full of human scalps (which barely fazes anyone); or the crack that keeps visibly expanding along a plaster wall; or the masked woman who enters the sexual fantasies of sleeping Tony (Greg Rhodes), or appears at the window.

Amid all the characters’ speculative banter about the precise nature of the film that we are watching, what we do know (and they do not) is that their numbers are being rapidly reduced, slasher-style, by someone armed with a knife. Yet, in a sense, this is ultimately a sort of vampire film too. For its evil is not just a couple of deranged house owners (William Russell, Jennifer Delora), but also faded, decaying beauty vengefully preying upon the vitality of youth.

The problem, though, is in the execution – both literally, in the dreary repetition of the throat slittings, and more metaphorically, in the by-numbers plotting, non-existent characterisation, perfunctory lines and poor performances. An established maestro of mood in films like Symptoms and Vampyres, Larraz certainly squeezes all the gothic atmosphere that he can from his country-house location, and playfully misdirects viewers in a knowing manner with a range of subverted horror tropes. And if you get through the long, meandering middle section, the ending is insane.

Still, the feeling remains that this is far from Larraz’s best work, and that he too, along with the film’s antagonists, is struggling impossibly against aesthetic decline. Deadly Manor was to be Larraz’s final American film. He made just one more feature, the Spanish cop comedy Sevilla Connection, before retiring permanently from filmmaking.

Deadly Manor is released on Blu-ray by Arrow Video in a brand new 2K restoration from the original film elements on 17 February.

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Olivia Colman to Lead Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Directorial Debut The Lost Daughter

Olivia Colman to Lead Maggie Gyllenhaal's Directorial Debut The Lost Daughter

Olivia Colman to lead Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut The Lost Daughter

Deadline brings word that Academy Award-winning actress Olivia Colman (The Favourite, The Crown) has officially signed on to star in Oscar nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal’s upcoming directorial debut film titled The Lost Daughter, which will be an adaptation of author Elena Ferrante’s novel of the same name. In addition to Colman, Dakota Johnson (Peanut Butter Falcon), Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose) and Gyllenhaal’s husband, Golden Globe nominee Peter Sarsgaard (The Batman) have also joined the drama film.

“When I finished reading Elena Ferrante’s The Lost Daughter, I felt that something secret and true had been said out loud. And I was both disturbed and comforted by that.” Gyllenhaal said in a statement. “I immediately thought how much more intense the experience would be in a movie theatre, with other people around. And I set to work on this adaptation. I find that the script has attracted other people interested in exploring these secret truths about motherhood, sexuality, femininity, desire. And I’m thrilled to continue my collaboration with such brave and exciting actors and filmmakers.” 

RELATED: Maggie Gyllenhaal To Play Elvis’ Mother in Baz Luhrmann Biopic

First published in 2006, Ferrante’s The Lost Daughter novel begins with Leda (Colman), a middle-aged divorcée and a college English professor who goes on a vacation on the Italian coast after her two daughters left her to visit their father in Canada. The story explores the conflicting emotions between a mother’s relationship toward her children.

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Its’ official synopsis reads: “When her daughters leave home, Leda anticipates a period of loneliness and longing. Instead, slightly embarassed by the sensation, she feels liberated, as if her life has become lighter, easier. She decides to take a holiday by the sea, in a small coastal town in southern Italy. But after a few days of calm and quiet, things begin to take a menacing turn. Leda encounters a family whose brash presence proves unsettling, at times even threatening. When a small, seemingly meaningless, event occurs, Leda is overwhelmed by memories of the difficult and unconventional choices she made as a mother and their consequences for herself and her family. The apparently serene tale of a woman’s pleasant rediscovery of herself soon becomes the story of a ferocious confrontation with an unsettled past.”

RELATED: Landscapers: Olivia Colman to Star in HBO’s New Crime Drama Miniseries

The Lost Daughter will be written and directed by Oscar nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal, who will also serve as a producer along with Talia Kleinhendler and Osnat Handelsman-Keren through their Pie Films banner. Samuel Marshall Productions’ Charlie Dorfman will also produced the film and finance it alongside Endeavor Content.

(Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage via Getty Images)

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6 Benefits of Watching Movies

Some people think that watching movies is a waste of time. This is not true. As a matter of fact, there are numerous benefits of watching movies. It’s fun to sit in the theater with your family or friends to watch your favorite movie and munch on popcorns at the same time. During the two and a half hours, you may feel emotional, happy, scared and excited. This will give you a way to get away from your stressful reality for a few hours. As you get out of the theater, you have no stress or worries. Let’s take a look at a few benefits of watching movies.

1. Awareness

Movies spread awareness especially those that are made around social issues. For instance, films made on social issues like honor killing, caste system, and dowry can raise awareness among the masses. In other words, films can help convey important messages for the betterment of society.

2. Thrilling Experience

You need some excitement but your boss is not willing to give a few days off. What would you do in this situation? Can you wait for your boss’s permission for an endless period of time? Of course, you would look for an alternative. Watching a movie is something that you can do from the comfort of your room once you get back home.

3. Good Laugh

When was the last time you had a good laugh? You don’t remember. Let’s remind you. It was in the movie theater when you were with your friends. Watching movies, especially those that are funny can give you a reason to laugh your heart out. That’s what comedy is all about.

Comedy can lighten your mood, which is good if you want to forget your worries for a while.

4. Inspiration

Good films are a great source of inspiration. For instance, titles that are based on historical figures can give you a deeper insight into the realities of life. They give you a way to see common people transform into heroes that people worship. This gives you the motivation to work hard to become something.

5. Time pass

At times, all of us are home alone. We have nothing to do. After all, we can’t chat on Facebook forever. There is a limit to it. In this situation, watching a movie is a great idea. In fact, this is the best way to pass time.

6. Stress Buster

Are you looking for a way to get rid of your stress? If so, you don’t need to do anything special. All you need to do is head to the movie theater and watch your favorite title with your friends. This is a great way of refreshing your senses.

So, the next someone says that watching movies is a waste of time, just count these benefits in front of them. They won’t taunt you after that. In fact, they will be amazed to know that movies also have a lot of benefits that everyone can avail. Hope this article helps.

Sundance 2020: The Last Shift, Dream Horse, Tesla

Richard Jenkins gives one of his most soulful performances in years in Andrew Cohn’s “The Last Shift,” a drama about one man’s devotion to his job, and the ways in which is employer takes advantage of his pride. From when we first see him—crafting a chicken specialty he calls the “Stanwich”—Jenkins’ everyman quality is put to great use as a worker of 38 years at Oscar’s Chicken & Fish. He moves slowly but precisely, and remains focused on taking care of Oscar’s at night, and all the customers who roll through. In one of its fine melancholy touches, the movie catches Stanley in the last week of his time at Oscar’s, as Stanley is set to leave at the end of the week and take care of his ailing mother down in Florida. With beautiful ease, Jenkins illustrates the kind of hard worker we often see in Ramin Bahrani films, and that includes his Sisyphean pursuit of making good fast food every night. 

Shane Paul McGhie enters the picture as Jevon, a young father newly out of jail, and a former columnist who stopped writing, who starts work at Oscar’s as part of his probation. As the two share some compelling scenes in the quiet restaurant, they gently clash over ideas of work that might be described as generational—Stanley’s pride in his work has left him unaware of how much money he is not being paid for his continuous labor, something that Jevon brings to his attention with an exhilarating clarity. Oscar’s kitchen proves to be a cinematic setting for these dialogue-driven scenes to take place, as condiments and other items on the shelves pop, as if they were all colors that jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none Stanley could use at any time. Jenkins and McGhie hold the film together through its ups and downs, and embody two characters who prove that they have a lot to offer the world. 

The excitement of seeing a movie stand up for people like Stanley and Jevon then clashes with the film’s dialogue about race, which amounts to little more than white noise. It’s hard to take “The Last Shift” in full sincerity when it starts to pit Stanley and Jevon against each other about race and privilege, since Jevon is written as one of the most stereotypical characters at the festival—does he need to be fresh out of jail to find his way into Stanley’s kitchen? The story goes even further in creating a deep bias within Stanley, which includes reckoning with a disturbing event from the past that he talks about with his friend Don (Ed O'Neill), but this narrative pursuit comes off as sloppy, and needless. 

The emotional journey of “The Last Shift” eventually reverts back to putting the audience’s emotions into Stanley’s unfair treatment as a hard worker, and that’s where its storytelling passions most resonate. Cohn’s script is especially poignant, and my audience’s reaction was tellingly vocal, when Stanley sees the restaurant’s parting gift. 

Do you want scenes of crowds cheering? Do you want underdogs? Do you want different members of a small town coming together, and finding a new passion in life? “Dream Horse” offers these cheap but timeless thrills and more, so much that the image used to promote the movie (posted above) could have been its sole piece on a vision board. On top of that, if you keep it in mind while watching this film from director Euros Lyn, it’s a considerable spoiler. 

And yet—this is the kind of unabashed crowd-pleaser that was made with care, down to a Toni Collette performance that sells every up and down experienced by her character Jan, who decides to the breed a race horse. The movie also has plenty of gorgeous establishing shots for the small Welsh village that she lives in, creating a sense that this movie can be as concerned with composition as much as having fun with a story that was told in the 2015 documentary “Dark Horse” (which also played at Sundance). 

Jan is a grocery store employee who decides to breed the horse as a way to make some money, but also to find a new passion to care about. Joined by her husband Brian (Owen Teale), she rallies a batch of people from the town to throw in, making for broad humor and rag-tag team-building scenes. Jan also receives a lot of help from a former racehorse syndicate leader named Howard (Damian Lewis), who guides them and their horse Dream Alliance into the high-stakes world of horse racing. 

Lyn has a sturdy vision for such a movie that balances feel-good highs and expected lows, and also when it comes to sprucing things up a bit—attaching a camera to the side of Dream Alliance during a race is a nice little jolt of energy, and the race scenes as a whole garner some significant momentum. It’s more that the story always feels like it’s on automatic. “Dream Horse” also goes for the easy laughs, like Karl Johnson playing the town drunk whose antics are constant but actually very lonely and sad. And then there’s Lewis’ Howard, who is given a subplot about a gambling problem, of which the movie more or less carelessly supports by the end for the sake of a flat-out victory. 

One of the more baffling movies that I saw in Park City was Michael Almereyda’s “Tesla,” a type of philosophical celebration of perhaps the most overlooked inventor in history. Ethan Hawke stars in the movie as Nikola Tesla, eschewing any Serbian accent and free-wheeling through a movie that starts off with gliding around on roller skates. 

Premiering just months after Alejandro Gomez-Rejon’s similarly focused “The Current War,” “Tesla” escapes the shadow of focusing on different time periods by leaning entirely into the artifice. It’s not uncommon for the movie to break into a slide show of Google searches, and it’s not all that surprising when Kyle MacLachlan’s interpretation of Thomas Edison whips out his iPhone, or that Jim Gaffigan seems to have just walked on set to play George Westinghouse. Scenes are created using painted backdrops, and often take place in bars, or modern bistro spots, as if parodying one’s expectation for how such historical scenes should be recreated. This looseness provides a strong contrast to the dialogue-driven script, which is meticulous all the way through Eve Hewson’s professorial narration. 

Seemingly inspired by a lot of Tesla knowledge, depressants, and a desire to break free from period piece constraints, “Tesla” is for people who don’t want biopics to take us from a cradle to grave, but instead work through different life sequences as if it were a musical. It’s a tricky movie, and one that did not hold my amusement the further into its historical abyss it went, but it does have memorable moments borne from its lack of giving any care to playing by the rules. Its greatest might be when Ethan Hawke, in full Tesla costume, does a dive bar karaoke version of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Rules the World,” off-key baritone singing and all. But with this baffling choice among others, “Tesla” proves to be a completely liberated biopic, so much so that it’s out of reach. 

5 Cool Facts About Classic Hollywood Action Movies You Probably Don’t Know

Action movies are the stuff of legend. For some, they seem like petulant little movies made with no real story. But for aficionados, action movies have everything in them — action (of course), adventure, sensuality, explosions, fast cars, and fight sequences. The list could go on.

One thing that is a bit interesting about action movie fans is the fact that true fans try to know as many details as they can about their favorite movies in so much as to almost become walking encyclopedias of knowledge & points of reference fit for your local restaurant’s trivia night. But much the same way that life works, you can’t know everything, and this is where this particular collection of facts shows its worth!

Here are five cool facts about some of your favorite action movies you never knew but will be sure to remember forever:

1. Silence of the Lambs – Most people tend to criticize big Hollywood action films by noting they have nothing to offer in real worth when it comes to an actual story worth checking out. Even though some may find this movie more suspenseful, it does keep you on the edge of your seat. ‘Silence’ is one of only a handful of films to have earned Academy Awards for the top categories (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay).

2. The Fast and the Furious – Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster, did not have drivers licenses or even permits before production of the film. While this may seem somewhat odd, many actors and actresses focus their attention on their craft from a young age, sometimes bypassing milestones like this.

3. Jaws – Nearly a fourth of the movie was filmed from the surface of the water level. This unique perspective is key to the film’s terror as audiences could feel as though they were treading water or the very least to be near “Bruce”, the name given to the mechanical shark used during filming. The fact that only about 25% of the movie was shot this way is amazing when you consider that most of the more memorable sequences of the movie are all based in the water.

4. Gone with the Wind – Though often seen as a historical drama or even (oddly enough) as a romantic movie, ‘Gone’ is celebrated for its massive undertaking & sweeping look at a bygone era over the course of many generations. While the movie tends to have beautiful imagery of plantation life, it’s the ferocious action sequences & suspenseful scenes that take your breath away. This film was the first color film to win an Oscar for Best Picture.

5. X-Men – Though they give off an air of sophistication and class, actors Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan had actually never played a game of chess in their lives. While not the most gritty action movie tidbit, it’s important to mention simply because far too many movie patrons are not willing to suspend all disbelief. It’s all about the details.

Action movies can be a lot of fun, so let the magic of cinema take you away from the drabness of everyday life.