The Manor: Is There Any History of Sanity in Your Family?

The Manor DVD box

The Manor DVD box

Moving up to directing after 15 years experience working on the production side of countless films and television series, Rhode Islander (and occasional Motif contributor) Jonathon Schermerhorn released his first feature, The Manor, on May 15. Distributed by Lionsgate, the film is available (under its original working title, Anders Manor) from Amazon and other major vendors via DVD and video on-demand.

It’s a strange mix of oddball characters with enough horror tropes packed into one film as to misdirect an audience expecting heavy-handed foreshadowing, using those expectations in a kind of jujitsu to flip them around using their own weight. Chess as a metaphor has been done to death since at least The Seventh Seal by Ingmar Bergman (pun intended), but the chess pieces generally do not sing and dance – although crazy people playing chess has a long history in cinema going back to 1925 in the silent era. I have no idea what the budget was, but The Manor almost certainly looks far better than expected on that budget, with superb production quality in sets, lighting, and cinematography.

Cast in the mold of classic 1980s horror, 18 year-old Amy Hunter (Christina Robinson) is discharged after four years in a mental hospital to the care of her mother Jane Hunter (Tanja Melendez Lynch) who takes her to a family reunion at the rustic and remote Anders Manor, run by obsequiously creepy Niklaus Anders (Mark Sullivan), despite a warning from Doctor Tryvniak (Rachel True) that this may trigger hallucinations and dissociations. Amy’s cousins, siblings Blaire Clarke (Danielle Guldin) and Trevor Clarke (Michael Zuccola), have also been invited along with their parents, Ethan (Eric Lutes) and Eva Clarke (Tandi Tugwell). Other guests include a hunting party consisting of the three redneck Bayton brothers, Brett (Sully Erna), Ole (Mike Messier) and Darsaw (Mike Bennett). The manor is also hosting a “cotton candy social” and bonfire conducted by a religious cult of hippies, complete with a Volkswagen Beetle and charismatic leader Reverend Thomas (Kevin Nash). We are treated to flashbacks of Niklaus’ father Robert Anders (Armen Garo) likening all of life to the game of chess, including a cappella musical accompaniment, as well as demon Aka Mana (David Tessier).

Above-the-title production credits go to Woodhaven Media and 2 Cousins Productions, the former associated with Tom DeNucci, credited as producer, and the latter with Glenn Jeffrey and Matt O’Connor, credited among 13 executive producers. Writing credit for the film is shared by Tom DeNucci, Glenn Jeffrey, Mike Messier and Matt O’Connor.

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