Bad Movie Review (Extra Life 2018) – Manos: The Hands of Fate

The Bad Movie Review series of posts are a set of posts written as the result of meeting a $1,200 stretch goal for Extra Life, an annual 24-hour video gaming charity marathon event that benefits children’s hospitals.

The thing with movies that have parts of some of them that aren’t so great is that there’s a kind of awkward dissonance to when you watch them. Gaping plot holes like how a hero is able to travel so fast somewhere just in time to save the day or a story element that never gets wrapped up or a disjointed sequence in the midst of coherent action stand out like sore thumbs.

Imagine a movie that was nothing but those disjointed sequences and head-scratching plot holes and you get Manos: The Hands of Fate. The movie’s been rated as low as a .5 out of a 10 sale, and, eternal optimist that I am, chalked that particular review up to just perhaps a frustrated outlier from a reviewer who probably wanted an hour of their life back after watching it.

Boy was I wrong.

The plot of Manos: The Hands of Fate, such that it is and such that it lumbers along with no sense of direction, is a horror-ish story wherein a family looking to take vacation ends up staying the night at a house seemingly appearing out of nowhere, kept up by a creepy caretaker that refers to a Master long dead but “always with us”. As day turns into night, the family quickly discovers things are a lot more sinister than the terrible painting of the Master and his dog over the fireplace, as their dog is killed, their daughter discovers a weird tomb with white-clad women and the (apparent) body of Manos, and the caretaker takes an unhealthy interest in the mother. Not surprisingly Manos and his white-wearing wives are very much alive, performing sacrifices using an odd theme surrounding hands, and the family has to struggle to survive.

I’m not sure what was more overused in this mess of a movie – the use of weird musical instrumentation, the sudden and often mistaken camera cuts, ineffective slapping, or Manos spreading his arms out so people could see the totally-thematic robe with two red hands on it. What I do know is that the family probably self-contained every horror meme you could attach to clueless survivor-types – not leaving when they should have (how hard is it to think it’s time to go when the family dog dies?!), going out on their own or in the dark, failing to stay where they are when it would have been safer, and finally, going back when they had a better chance out in the desert, and facing off with the antagonist when they know he might have mystical powers. It was almost facepalm worthy watching them stumble from bad decisions to worse decisions.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the side characters made no sense to have in terms of never figuring into the main plot or doing so in a way that was confusing – there was a teenage couple who you thought would surely die after repeatedly committing one of the cardinal sins of horror movies (making out constantly), the inept police officers who don’t bother investigating shots fired or a possible missing family, or Manos’ wives, who literally fight each other over what to do about the family and who have no individuality, other than the one who’s the oldest who ends up rebelling against Manos and dying from repeated slapping, or another who finds the father tied up in the desert, makes out with him, and then slaps him when he isn’t responsive. None of it is sensible, especially when the core conflict that sets them off (whether to kill the child as well as the father) ends up getting resolved by having none of them die.

If I had to compare this to any kind of process, it would be as if someone couldn’t decide what to put into a dish and then decided to say “screw it” and put all of the ingredients into a blender to puree together into an unidentifiable goop. That’s pretty much what Manos: The Hands of Fate is, and I’d highly recommend instead watching the MST3k or Rifftrax versions, which can at least give a bit of levity and humor to what definitely deserves that .5/10 score.

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