We all know that friend in our social network with who makes endless, terrible relationship decisions. He may be a guy who falls in love at the drop of a tequila shot and winds up as a Mr. Busybody for every girl he falls for. She may make every excuse for her inability to love a single man, and spend years chasing after a string of Mr. I’m-going-to-leave-my-wife-someday-I-swear’s. Either way, you feel sorry for them to an extent and, after that, you just want to beat them with a bar of soap in a sock.
Vonda Manning (Emelle) is a woman who has suffered a long run of abusive, violent relationships. She’s a victim, recently fallen for the sixth dominating partner who has to use violence to get off. All she can do is confide in her girlfriend, Kelly (Techeira Roberts); a soft, understanding yoga practitioner representing Vonda’s conscience. Kelly offers the sanctuary of the Mystic Dreams boutique shop, and Vonda reluctantly agrees. That’s where her life changes completely.
Vonda and Kelly meet Eileen, the psychic who owns the shop. Eileen offers confidence and clairvoyance; a way to break the cycle. Vonda and Eileen meet for consulting sessions, with the mystic facilitating Vonda’s repeated confessions. Vonda assumes Eileen is offering her a way out. Eileen, however, has her own agenda. She sees Vonda as a vessel through which she can channel the spirit of vengeance; a female apparition known as Enyo.
Vonda begins to dream about revenge on her ex-boyfriends, and Enyo makes them a blood-soaked reality. Vonda is instantly rocketed to the top of the suspect list by simpleton detective Eric Tyce. Off her leash, the Sgree demon, Enyo (portrayed by adult film star Ariel X) continues to murder while Vonda discovers the demon’s origin, as well as an alliance that changes who she can trust.Manhater relies more on characters than jumps, and the cast is pretty good. Alessandra Assaf is a delightfully batty witch, obsessed with her own desire for power; she’s a throwback to the old-school, really evil, maniacal laugher and flash of lightning villains. John Henry’s Bruce is out for his, and he’s willing to step on anyone to get there. Emelle is solid as Vonda, struggling to find a way to rise above the confusion of her victim lifestyle and what has come from her willingness to find a solution.
Manhater is a budget movie in every sense of the word, shot on the weekends over a three-month period. The film lacks the larger-than-life Michael Bay explosions. It relies more on the do-it-yourself visuals for evisceration and the supernatural. It’s an intimate film, powered by a decent story and premise. The film is paced well, and represents a strong effort from a group of individuals wearing multiple hats and given a small budget and strict timeline. The slasher is a nearly-naked porn star. The story is a horror twist on a Sunday night “up with women” flick on Oxygen network. The effects are almost all cheese. Still, Manhater is cheap, and viewers who put it on their Netflix list or grab it in the bargain bin will know this. It’s equal parts soap opera and creature feature, Jerry Springer show and murder mystery.
The title menu’s piano work is reminiscent of “The Audition”. The soundtrack features original music composed by Greg Stitt, with performances by Caroline Gulde, Debbie Kanaan, The Honey’s, and Heidi Howe. Manhater was an official selection of the 2010 Fright Night Film Fest, Starfest Horrorfest in Denver, and Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema. The film won the Best Original Soundtrack award at IdyllWild.
The DVD includes a feature on making the movie, a separate piece on the story behind Manhunter and one on the visual effects. An audio commentary track features the film’s writer and producer, Philip R. Calderone. Calderone served as writer, producter, and editor, supervising sound editor, first assistant director, post-production supervisor and music supervisor. It stands to reason he knows a bit about the film.
Check out the film’s official site, www.manhatermovie.com.