Manhater (2005)

Low-budget, silly, funny, nasty and surprisingly enjoyable, Manhater is decent in places but overly flawed. Poor directing and acting lets it down occasionally, and there are few surprises throughout. Manhater is entertaining but neither scary, clever or horrific – it’s good fun, but tragically forgettable.

Beginning with a mad-haired woman casting spells over a midget cauldron in a stockroom, you’re already given enough to understand what to expect with Manhater; it is hyper low-budget, with poor lighting, camerawork and laughable special-effects. Yet this is acceptable – a low budget should not necessarily hamper enjoyment – but only if the acting and story are solid and enjoyable. Sadly with Manhater it’s a very mixed bag.

“What kind of idiot falls in love with six losers?” Vonda Madding asks. Well, she does. And not just losers, but bastardly horrible men – abusive, cheating, misogynistic gits. Encouraged by her housemate to visit “Mystic Dreams”, a shop run by the mad witch woman Eileen Torst (Alessandra Assaf), Vonda (Emelle) expects to be shown how to move on and find a man who doesn’t want to punch her in the face. Yet when words alone don’t do anything to change her mood, Vonda is manipulated by Eileen into taking a bottle of cure-all magic juice…

“It’s an elixir, a potion if you will,” Eileen tells her.

“What’s it for?”

“Your future.”

Disbelieving of the “fucking bullshit” that is a magic potion, Vonda ignores it at first, but the draw of its potential to eradicate her pain is too much and she downs the bottle. Surprisingly, the potion conjours a demonic creature, naked except for a glaringly incongruous pair of knickers. Acting as a physical manifestation of Vonda’s pain, the creature Enyo (Ariel X) hunts down Vonda’s exes relentlessly, ripping them to shreds. The police instantly suspect Vonda, and soon her whole world is thrown into disarray. Confused, afraid and fighting against some unknown plan of Eileen’s, Vonda finds herself in a lot of trouble and unable to control the violent force that is clawing her history to death.

Although slow in places there are some genuinely good scenes (the amusing bar fight and Eric the policeman’s kitchen encounter with Enyo are especially notable), so Manhater is a mixed collection of good and bad. Whilst the indoor shots are functional and workable, the exterior shots feel like you’re watching a budget Spanish daytime television program. It can be distracting, and the occasional piece of shocking direction adds to the amateurish feel Manhater sadly encapsulates.

The acting in Manhater is either good or terrible, depending on the character. Alessandra Assaf is great as the witch Eileen and Emelle’s depiction of the battered and withered Vonda is genuine and believable, yet the policemen and some of her exes are nothing more than poorly performed clichés. Ariel X is great as the demented creature Enyo, threateningly sexual in both human and demonic forms. Her sexiness is no surprise, though, considering her career… as a pornstar.

It is heavily ironic that director Anthony Doublin and writer Philip R. Calderone ensure that most of the female cast are semi-naked at some point in the film and the death-dealing man-hater Enyo is played by the star of Whoregasm, Slutty Squirters and Be My Bitch.

Bloody and amusing, this is Sunday afternoon horror, which neither challenges, upsets or scares. The acting is a mixture of good and terrible, and the clear budget restraints means the direction is occasionally flawed, but overall it’s a decent attempt and certainly watchable. Manhater is an enjoyable little horror film, but definitely nothing special.

Rating: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

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