Manhater (2005)


USA. 2005.


Director/Photography/Visual Effects/Makeup Effects Concepts – Anthony Doublin, Screenplay/Producer – Philip R. Calderone, Music – Greg Stitt, Visual Effects Supervisor – Andreas Jablonka. Production Company – Canyon Falls Productions LLC


Emelle (Vonda Madding), John F. Henry (Bruce Helson), Ariel X (Enyo), Alessandra Assaf (Eileen Trost), Brendan Connor (Detective Eric Tyce), Techiera Roberts (Kelly Rubin), Gregor Collins (Jackson Botero), Neal Orion (Rob Gantner), Robert Olding (Ted Coury), Charlie W. Schiefer (Cornwell), Craig Wadlin (Guy Vitello), Daron McFarland (Lonnie Gatz), Rebecca A. McCuen (Selma), Lenny Rose (Frank)


Vonda Madding has a history of relationships with domineering men and enjoys playing a submissive in bondage scenarios in the bedroom. However, her husband Bruce Helson takes it too far and cuts her with a knife after tying her up. She leaves him and moves in with her best friend Kelly. After some months, Kelly suggests that they visit the Mystic Dream Shop run by Eileen Trost who offers spiritual healing for the hurts of relationships. Eileen sees that Vonda has much anger at the men who have abused her that cannot be touched by her therapy and instead offers Vonda a potion that will give vent to her anger. Vonda takes it and falls into a dream in which she sees a demonic figure, the screed known as Enyo, appear and slaughter one of her ex’s. The screed continues to slaughter its way through Vonda’s ex-boyfriends. This places her under suspicion by the police. Vonda then makes the discovery that Eileen is secretly involved with Bruce and that they are using her as a dupe in order to control Enyo.

Manhater comes from Anthony Doublin. Doublin has been working in the film industry since the 1970s in a variety of roles in makeup effects, visual effects, miniatures and as a lighting cameraman with credits that include films such as Re-Animator (1985), Critters (1986), From Beyond (1986), The Blob (1988), Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990) and Team America: World Police (2004). Manhater was Doublin’s second film as director (he also acting as producer and effects man), having been preceded by the sf/action film Future War (1997) and followed by the snuff internet site film Slaughtered (2008).

Manhater gives the initial impression that it is another film in the woman takes revenge and carves up men genre alongside the likes of I Spit on Your Grave (1978), Ms 45/Angel of Vengeance (1981), Dirty Weekend (1992) and Baise-Moi (2000). This turns out not to be the case but the title does leave the film with an undeniable expectation as you sit down to watch – I was expecting a nastily sordid tale where a woman takes it into her own hands to level the balance of the sexes but what we end up with instead is a supernatural story about a demon killing off a woman’s ex’s. Certainly, the film captivates interest from the second scene where we meet heroine Emelle, angry at husband John F. Henry turning up late for their evening out, only for him to start aggressively wanting sex and forcing her into a set of ties as he produces a knife and starts cutting her, where the entire scene sits in an ambiguous place between whether it is rape or else a bondage scene that she is enjoying.

I found difficulty trying to grasp where Anthony Doublin was coming from with the film all of the time. There are times it sends mixed messages. As far as one can see, Doublin’s sympathies are with heroine Emelle who has been through a string of abusive relationships, which seems a standard set-up for a film where dark forces kill them off with a just fate. However, we then learn that she is a dupe in a scheme by her ex-husband and the New Age psychic to set her up so they can control a demon (with the ex having taken up with the same witch that Emelle’s roommate in a wild probability-stretching coincidence just happens to persuade her to go and see for therapy). As a result, the thrust of the film’s sympathies seem to be about setting out to protect the lives of the jerks that have abused the heroine. In a further twist, the film throws in the heroine’s submissive desires – while interestingly different, at no point does the film seem to address these, such as where you can draw a line between enjoying being treated rough and when it becomes genuine abuse.

Despite Anthony Doublin’s clear experience as a professional in the film industry, Manhater often plays out like a low-budget amateur-made ingenue effort. This is particularly noticeable in the grainy non-professional photography that has amateur film all over it. Nor does the sight of the demon figure, which is clearly an actress (fetish model and porn actress Ariel X) in body paint that fails to disguise a thong while she is supposedly walking around nude, do much to improve things. That said, most of the actors (all unknowns whose names one has never heard of before – another sign of an amateur film) give solid and professional performances. The horror scenes are delivered with a moderate degree of gore. This must also be the first film I have seen that gives credit for all the open source library sound effects it uses.

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