There’s an asterisk next to the date above because although this indie feature was made in 2005 its just now getting a DVD release in 2010. Unlike many big budget flicks shooting outta Hollywood MANHATER does something unique: This isn’t a remake or a sequel … the filmmakers here actually sat down and wrote an original story with decent characters and dialogue. I didn’t even know filmmakers were allowed to do that anymore!! But like most other indie features this one is hampered by a noticeable low budget that distracts the viewer many times during the 93 minute run time. So what’s the final verdict?? I’ll get to that in a second.
MANHATER is the story about Vonda, played by Emelle, who has finally been in one too many bad relationships. Vonda shuts herself off from the world for a while and only comes around when her best friend convinces her to go see a witch (?!?). The witch, Eileen (played by Alessandra Assaf), gives her a potion which is supposed to “free [Vonda] from her hateful thoughts.” But this potion instead releases a Sgree called Enyo (played by adult alternative model Ariel X) who proceeds to go on a spree killing all of Vonda’s ex-boyfriends and husbands who mistreated her (and there’s a lot!!). The police of course suspect Vonda and the race is on for Vonda to uncover what the hell is going on. In the press release for MANHATER we’re told that the “spark of the idea” for this film came
when Tony Doublin [director] and Phil Calderone [writer] worked with an internet model/actress, Ariel X, on a small horror film project. Something about Ariel stood out above all—her look, her poise, her natural ability to stand out in a crowd—so Tony decided to develop a project around her. This time however instead of her being just another female victim on the horror-film treadmill the tables would be turned, with the woman in control.
I can understand being taken back with an actress, but to create an entire film around one person, especially a relative unknown, may not be the best idea. Overall the acting in MANHATER is well done. But there were no performances that really stood out. And not to be an a*****e here but the role Ariel X played, of the demoness Enyo, could have been played by any number of indie actresses. Maybe they wanted to use Ariel X in order to get her internet fan base interested in the project. Ariel X isn’t terrible by any means; she does a very competent job. I’m just saying that since this film was written for her, I was expecting to be blown away by her performance. I wasn’t.
The other aspect that hurt MANHATER was its obvious low budget. By now you all know me; I love my indie horror flicks. I would never base my like or dislike of a film solely on the budget. In fact I mostly praise indie features when they manage to make their film’s look “big” despite their modest budgets (check out my reviews of VINDICATION and LONG PIGS). But sometimes despite the best intentions of the filmmakers, a film suffers from its low budget. Unfortunately that is the case here, and nowhere is it more obvious than when it comes to the special f/x. The f/x are extremely amateurish and look like there was no thought put into them. This is disappointing especially since director Anthony Doublin worked on the special makeup effects on a project back in 1985. Maybe you heard of it? RE-ANIMATOR?? (Doublin also supervised the physical and photographic effects on 1986‘s FROM BEYOND). Now obviously there was a bigger budget on RE-ANIMATOR, but I find it hard to believe that Doublin, who contributed to both the makeup and visual f/x on MANHATER, couldn’t have come up with something a little more realistic. Even Enyo’s “costume” is pretty uninspired. It looks like they just threw a crazy wig on her, covered her in body paint, and gave her long finger nails. She looked liked someone working at the DMV for christ’s sake!! But even worse were the scenes where we see Enyo killing Vonda’s ex-boyfriends. All she did was jump on top on them and start racking at their faces and chests. I think she was supposed to be tearing them apart, but what we actually get is Enyo simply smearing blood all over their chests. Disappointing.
But what we do get with MANHATER is an original story that, besides the f/x, is well executed. The acting is pretty strong all around and the dialogue is believable which in this day and age is pretty UNbelievable!! You will most likely roll you eyes at just how much Vonda’s ex’s are douchtards (each one more violent and over-the-top abusive than the last), but I think they were written that way to make a point. This is a genre film about and starring strong, independent women; so in order to establish that you need douchy, misogynistic men. It works here. There is a slight twist in the film that brings back into Vonda’s life her most recent abusive ex, Bruce (played by John F. Henry). He does a really convincing job as a violent, power hungry a*****e. The twist felt a little forced but it worked within the context of the overall film.
If you are looking for a well acted, well written horror-thriller that has an original story (and let’s face it; who among us isn’t??) then you’ll enjoy MANHATER. The low budget will pull you out of the story at various points (especially when the f/x are being executed), but overall this is one worth checking out.
Director: Anthony Doublin
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
Gore: 2 out of 10 skulls (for being poorly executed)
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer