Deadly Manor aka Savage Lust is directed by Spanish horror helmer José Ramón Larraz and after being disappointed by his earlier efforts in so so slasher Edge of the Axe I have to admit I didn’t hold up much hope for this.
Turns out however I was totally wrong as Deadly Manor is a tension filled terror fest that had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. Opening on a slow tracking shot showing the naked bodies of two brutally murdered bikers left in the woods we see a car casually drive away. We then cut to a crew of teens in transit to a wild weekend by a secluded lake who becoming lost end up asking a hitcher for help.
The mysterious lone traveller Jack (Clark Tufts) seems to be unwilling to let on why he is on the road and gets uncomfortable when the local cops show up however he does know of a route to the gang’s rendezvous informing them they are well off track. As night falls the group decide to take shelter in a huge abandoned mansion they find off the main road and deep in the woods but the decision will lead to a night of terror none of them will ever forget.
From the outset Deadly Manor has a strange surreal feel that makes it all the more unnerving. Allowing the shocks and scares to build until they boil over Larraz squeezes every drop of dread out of the set up and scenes before things descend into chaos and carnage as they always do in these sorts of films.
Haunting images abound from the smashed up car surrounded by pillars displayed like a monument on an ancient stone plinth in the front garden to ever increasing crack in the living room wall that seems to deepen at the same rate as the teens panic to the coffins in the basement empty and waiting but for what?
Best of all are the hundreds of pictures of Amanda (Frankenhooker’s Jennifer Delora) that cover the walls causing the male members of the group to become increasingly obsessed with her. The mansion is a shrine to her beauty which is strangely bewitching causing one particular teen, Tony (Greg Rhodes), to have an erotic hallucinatory encounter with Amanda that transforms into a nightmare where she is wearing an eerie plastic mask. Then again was it a dream or something else entirely?
This is the other element that works so well in Deadly Manor, the suspension of an explanation until the final moments of the movie, which causes both the audience and characters to constantly speculate what is happening to them. Some evidence such as the closet full of scalps and disturbing photo album of naked dead bodies points towards a psychopath but other cues seem to hint at something supernatural.
Helen (Claudia Franjul) is particularly set on this otherworldly explanation saying the manor itself is evil fleeing the property as soon as possible sealing her fate straight away. For the rest of us and the cast the wait for answers only increases the fear we feel and when everything is finally and hideously laid out in the open we are still traumatised by the resolution the same as the fated few remaining survivors.
Brought to Blu-ray beautifully by Arrow Video as ever the release is packed with extras including new audio commentary with Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan, a new interview with actress Jennifer Delora and extracts from an archival interview with Jose Larraz among other things.
A fucked up freak fest of a film that shocks and entertains in equal measure horror fans should definitely pay a visit to Deadly Manor, they won’t be disappointed.