In 2021’s The Manor, Barbara Hershey plays Judith Albright. Once a professional dancer, Judith now works as a dance instructor. Or, at least, she does until she has a sudden stroke at her 70th birthday party. Judith survives the stroke but it’s discovered that she has Parkinson’s disease. Judith decides that it’s time to move into a nursing home. Her grandson, Josh (Nicholas Alexander), disagrees but the rest of Judith’s family thinks that Judith is making the right decision.
At first, the nursing home seems ideal for Judith. The nurses seem to be friendly. The home is actually in a stately old manor and Judith has a nice view of the nearby woods from her room. It’s true that Judith’s roommate seems to think that there’s something sinister happening but Judith (and everyone else) chalks that up to senility. Judith moves into the Manor and even befriends some of the other residents, including Roland (Bruce Davison).
However, it’s not long before Judith starts to suspect that something strange is happening at the Manor. She hears strange noises. There are mysterious deaths. It turns out that not all of the nurses are as friendly as the originally seem. Judith starts to have visions of a strange tree-like creature in her room. When Judith tries to talk to the nursing home’s staff, they dismiss her concerns and condescendingly tell her that she’s just confused. Some of them even threaten her to keep her from making too much trouble. Are they just bad nurses or is there something even worse motivating them? And can Judith discover the Manor’s secret before she becomes the latest victim?
The Manor was the eighth and the last entry in the Welcome to the Blumhouse horror anthology series. Each of the films premiered on Prime, with The Manor dropping on October 8th, 2021. For the most part, the quality of the films featured as a part of Welcome to the Blumhouse were uneven. However, The Manor actually works fairly well. What the film lacks in budget, it makes up for in atmosphere. The nursing home is a truly creepy location and director Axelle Croyon does a good job of creating the feeling that there could be something lurking in every shadow. The scenes were Judith is woken in the night are well-done and the scenes where Judith is told that she is simply confused because she’s elderly are properly infuriating. Barbara Hershey is well-cast as Judith, giving a good performance as someone who is at peace with being in her twilight years but who still isn’t quite ready to give up on life. She is well-matched by Bruce Davison, playing a more ambiguous resident of the nursing home. The ending of The Manor is also a bit unexpected, with Judith making a choice that’s unexpected but which makes sense if you look back over what we’ve learned about her over the course of the film.
In the end, The Manor feels like a modern version of one of those old episodes of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. Yes, the film does teach an important lesson about aging and respecting our elders but, even more importantly, it adds a slightly unexpected twist to give the story a properly macabre conclusion. The Manor is an effective little horror tale and one that gives Barbara Hershey a chance to shine.