Next up in my Fantasia Int’l Film Festival review series is Le Manoir. It’s French! So, it’s gotta be good, right?
A group of teen archetypes (played by 30-year-olds) rents the titular mansion for a New Year’s Eve celebration. The place is old and creepy and in a cellular dead zone and don’t go on the second floor, but everything should be fine, right? Well, guess what? Everything is not fine! After some revelry, people start getting dead. Sometimes in creative, gruesome ways. Is the house really haunted? Or is there someone there with them? They should probably split up and find out!
I’ve enjoyed a fair amount of French horror films. I loved Martyrs, Dans ma Peau, Frontier(s), A L’Interieur, and so on and so on. And as much as I wasn’t a fan of the cliched and ultimately homophobic story of Haute Tension, I concede that it was amazingly acted and superbly directed/shot. So, I suppose that I expect a lot from a French horror film. The French do, after all, bear the dubious honor of being stereotypically serious about film. That is a great trait to have in the most intense horror films. Unfortunately, another stereotype the French bear is the one about them having a stunted sense of humor (maybe it goes along with their serious streak). To be sure, there are funny French films. (at least i’m pretty sure there are. i mean, Delicatessen was pretty funny) But they are known (perhaps unfairly) as the folks who held Jerry Lewis in high regard long after his star faded here in the US. This film does nothing to dispel that notion and a lot to dispel the notion that the French are serious about film. What Le Manoir does is mix bad comedy with tired slasher tropes cribbed from the late-90s American slasher revival, which cribbed from early-80s American horror (which itself cribbed from 60s Italian gialli). The mostly tedious result is a very unfunny film full of shit jokes, stoned guy jokes, virgin shaming, slut shaming, macho posturing, and archetype mocking. (think: the least absurd parts of the Scary Movie franchise but in French) The women need rescuing. The men are infantile. And the 90s themed party and costuming feels like pandering (to whom? i don’ t know). The film does manage to surprise with a couple of creative kills and a unique unmasking, but those few positives are not enough to pull this one out of le pissoir.
The Final Cut: Le Manoir is a tired, unfunny pastiche of slasher cliches, unoriginal characters, and extremely broad humor. The few surprises it manages to serve up don’t do enough to save it from triteness.