Despite being very different in plot and tone, these three films kind of worked together due to some common threads. They made for an absolutely unintentional, logical weekend triple feature–I was merely knocking off the next three flicks on my Prime watchlist.
THE BELIEVER (2021)
This is a film I probably should have walked away from the minute the philosophical and theological babble began—which was like, the first minute—but I didn’t. So I’ll just make this quick to warn away those who despise religious horror as much as I do.
A scientist believes his health is deteriorating. His wife aborted a baby without consulting him. They talk to each other like members of two different cults. They can’t have intimate relations. They shouldn’t even be together, let alone living in the same house.
Billy Zane has a small role as his therapist.
The husband thinks the wife believes she’s possessed. She thinks he’s possessed. He thinks she’s messing with him when he starts to hear noises related to a baby. He starts to have scary delusions.
Things eventually go into Misery territory.
I had only a vague idea of what was going on.
The final few minutes were kind of creepy and interesting even though I didn’t have a full grasp on what was unfolding. The ending did kind of give you that, “Oh, so that’s what was going on the whole time” light bulb turning on over your head feeling, though.
Running a sweet 70 minutes long, this little indie doesn’t break new ground, but it does combine body horror and the occult and wrap them up in a practical effects feast for the eyes.
It’s all quite simple. It begins with a young woman tied up as part of some sort of ritual in the middle of the woods. She gets away from the man who abducted her, and as soon as she’s safe and in a shower, her body begins to fall apart.
As she struggles to figure out what’s wrong with her, she spends most of the film walking city streets drenched in red light while being followed by a horned demon shadow. She also has what she thinks at first are gruesome delusions or nightmares.
As her body continues to morph, her friend tries to track her down to help her.
The final act is definitely the money shot, with some delicious monster effects that gave me flashbacks to 80s horror.
THE MANOR (2021)
This Prime original runs only 81 minutes long, but considering it’s rather tame and there aren’t that many chills or thrills before stakes are raised in the final act, it easily could have been a short in an anthology and given us a more concise flow and better pacing.
The atmosphere and tone deliver the usual spooky house feel of typical Hollywood horror of the past decade, so don’t expect to be on the edge of your seat. Perfect example—the first “jump scare” is a loud orchestral stab because a worker at the nursing home Barbara Hershey has just been admitted to comes up behind her. Ugh.
What makes the film unnerving in a less manufactured way is the circumstances—when Hershey begins to see freaky things in the shadows at night, no one believes her, and staff, doctors, and her own family assume she’s showing signs of dementia.
Yes, it’s becoming a more common theme in horror movies as of late, so it’s probably no coincidence that none other than the leading lady from The Taking of Deborah Logan plays one of the residents of the home. In contrast to that film, this one is horror lite in its take on old age and how we treat the elderly.
While fairly predictable as it progresses, The Manor still manages to entertain and has a few creepy monster moments, but the final act gets downright goofy, and some very good actors seem to just lose control of their craft. I felt like I was suddenly watching a totally different movie. Weird.