‘Maddress’ and ‘The Manor’ review: Infamous women uncover the truth
“Maddress”, a new film directed by Ryan Zaragoza, claims to be “inspired by true events”, like many paranormal thrillers before it. But unlike many of those movies, it’s not borrowing from urban legends or famous ghost stories—it’s based on verifiable atrocities committed against Latina women. “The Manor,” which Amazon is releasing alongside “Maddress” as part of its “Welcome to the Blumhouse” series of horror films, also tells the story of marginalized womanhood, with a septuagenarian protagonist. Though vastly different in setting, both films feature refreshingly rare heroes, yielding spirited – if sometimes moderate – results.
“Madress” takes place in the 1970s, when future mother Diana (Ariana Guerra) moves to an expatriate community with her husband, Beto (Tenoche Huerta). A passionate investigative journalist, Diana is reluctant to leave her native Los Angeles, but when it appears that a sinister force is harming the city’s pregnant Latina women, she finds a wealth of new material. The ensuing investigation catalyzes social tensions between Diana, a light-skinned Mexican American, and her dark-skinned husband that are almost more alluring than mystery. A weak score and some by-the-book camerawork can pull off this urgent story, but what it lacks in Sting, it makes up for with an original script (by Marcella Ochoa and Mario Misione) and a brutally pregnant protagonist who ” Fargo” character Marge Gunderson is proud of.
Set in a present-day nursing home, “The Manor”, written and directed by Axl Carolyn, focuses on the intersection between sexism and ageism. After protagonist Judith (a brilliant Barbara Hershey) moves into assisted living after a stroke, she suspects that the staff is doing something nefarious. Naturally no one believes him, and his mental aptitude is soon up for debate. With the help of her goth grandson Josh (Nicholas Alexander), Judith must uncover a deranged conspiracy before it can claim her life.
Unusual is the film that focuses on the grand-grandson relationship, let alone the one that portrays a relationship like Judith and Josh. Josh clearly adores his take-no-nonsense grandmother, and the two bond over the macabre: He references her “Psycho”, she quizzes him on scary trivia in the parlor of the old people’s home. At one point, Judith warns Josh for swearing and he counters that she abuses him all the time. It’s happily true – Judith skips the abuse like she’s one of the kids in “Stranger Things.”
Despite some flat cinematography and borderline goofy special effects, “The Manor” gives us a typical 70-year-old woman as its protagonist and a twisty ending sure to be polarizing. This and “Maddress” are both a little half-baked, but their foundation is inventive enough to deflect attention from some sloppy construction.
not evaluated. Running time: 1 hour 23 minutes. View on Amazon.
not evaluated. Running time: 1 hour 21 minutes. View on Amazon.
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