The Welcome to the Blumhouse Halloween horror series returns for round three in the fight for your Halloween viewing attention. There were four films last year, two earlier this month, and now another pair: The Manor takes place at a stately old folks’ home in the present day, while the’ 70s-set Madres unfolds in a small California border town.
‘THE MANOR’—Unlock This House’s Spoo-Key Secrets
Golden Sun Manor is a seemingly wonderful retirement home where elderly residents enjoy parlor games, beautiful gardens, and comfy suites. Or at least, that’s how the brochure makes it seem. When widowed 70-year-old Judith Albright (Barbara Hershey, Insidious) suffers a mild stroke and decides she should get professional care, her daughter and teenage grandson Josh (Nicholas Alexander, Adam) agree. But Judith soon begins to suspect that all is not as it seems within the hallowed halls of the gorgeous gothic structure—Judith’s lines of communication are cut off, and she’s forbidden to go outside, quickly making her feel like a prisoner.
One day, while Josh is visiting, Judith tells him that something is very wrong. Things go from bad to worse when Judith begins to experience horrifying night terrors… or is the monster at her bedside real? No… it is not demons. Golden Sun Manor’s staff insists it’s dementia. But what about Judith’s cohorts who are losing their minds… and their lives? She’s not only worried for herself but also her newfound friends and Bridge buddies (among them is Roland, well-played by lauded actor Bruce Davison, who always brings charm to any film he’s in).
Writer-director Axelle Carolyn (The Haunting of Bly Manor) does a deft job of keeping the story simple yet effective. Her script is crisp, to the point, and keeps its views on ageism light and even funny in places. The Manor is the least ham-fisted entry in the Welcome to the Blumhouse lot. Don’t get me wrong; I am pleased to see their active attentiveness to important social and racial issues—and I am even more pleased when it feels less like a lecture and more like a movie.
‘Madres’—Stork Raving Mad
For once, the gender of the director sets him apart from his brethren—Ryan Zaragoza is the sole male among this year’s Welcome to the Blumhouse impresarios. Madres is a politically correct and socially aware chiller that relies heavily on the cautionary Latin American folklore tale of La Llorona while trying to play in Rosemary’s Baby’s sandbox.
Beto (Tenoch Huerta, The Forever Purge) and Diana (Ariana Guerra, Helstrom), a young Mexican-American couple expecting their first child, move into a migrant farming community in 1970s California and are excited about beginning a new chapter in their lives. But when Diana starts to experience strange symptoms and is plagued by terrifying visions, she worries that she and her unborn baby are falling prey to a legendary curse that cannot be stopped. As Diana digs deeper into her situation, she wonders if their new house is haunted by old ghosts—or something even worse.
While Beto works on a nearby farm, Diana’s feelings of loneliness and fear are worsened because, despite her heritage, she was born in the U.S. and doesn’t speak fluent Spanish—this makes her an outsider among her new, not-so-friendly neighbors. As the plot unfolds, there is also an element of nefarious agricultural goings-on in the form of dangerous pesticides. In some ways, Madres is less like Rosemary’s Baby and more like 2019’s Dark Waters (in fact, there’s even a text addendum commonly seen at the ends of documentaries and docudramas).
While beautifully shot and well-acted, Madres is quite slow, and the moments of horror are few and far between. It’s not altogether bad, but clearly, Zaragoza didn’t want to birth a horror movie, as the genre “trappings” are just that.
FIND BOTH FILMS ON PRIME STARTING OCTOBER 8, 2021