If Plan 9 from Outer Space was the best bad movie from the 50s and 60s, than Manos the Hands of Fate was quite possibly the worst. In fact, this movie was such a pain that I struggled to finish this review and missed the New Years mark. First off, the word “Manos” is Spanish for “hand”, and before you think about how redundant that title is, just remember that the title is the best part about this movie. Yeah…wrap your head around that one. Also, the filming of this movie was the result of a bet, and the first script draft was written on a napkin. That’s always a good sign, right?
The camera used for filming the movie had to be hand-wound and would tamper out at the 30 second mark. The camera was rented because the filmmaker didn’t have enough money to buy one, so he had to rush every shot of the movie the same way Ed Wood always did by choice. The camera also didn’t record audio, so they had to dub in all the talking afterwards – fairly common these days. The entire cast was made up of local models and actors, and instead of being paid up-front, they were promised a profit share. Convinced that it must be a good movie yet?
Most of the movie was filmed at night. Back then, a common method was to shoot during the day and darken the footage to make it look like night. The filmmakers instead decided to film at night, and moths were attracted to the camera lights. Sometimes you can see the moths in the movie, other times the moths reduced the lighting so much that the actors couldn’t see where they were going. Enough about the production though; let’s get into the movie itself and discover how dreadful this really is.
The movie jumps right into a family of three sitting in a car lost. No opening text or credits, it just jumps straight to the family. The kid in the back, Debbie, keeps complaining about being tired and cold or something. The father, Mike, and mother, Margaret, are blabbering on about how Mike should have asked for directions. The scene is pointless, annoying, and feels too long.
The first thing I noticed is how bad the video quality is. It looks like it was shot on a giant VCR brick camera with lines running down the screen and black dots showing up everywhere. Even Plan 9 didn’t have these problems, and it was a low-budget film made 8 years earlier. Also, the camera angle never changes. We just see the same side of the car for the whole scene. We can’t see anyone’s lips moving, save for one tiny moment where Margaret faces forward for a second; of course the dialogue is out of synch with her mouth movements. Every now and then, another shot will begin and the actors will shift position or the camera will move slightly closer. Get used to this people, it happens all throughout the movie.
Eventually the family starts singing “Row your boat” and drives off. As we see the car driving down the road, the movie’s title card pops up.
(so much effort was put into this title card, can't you tell?)
After a few driving shots, the family is pulled over by the cops.
"Alright mister, I see you have a tail light problem."
"No excuse - running late, first vacation, kid getting tired."
"That's too bad."
"Well, can't you give us a break officer?"
"Well, alright." What? He got a break simply by asking after the cop said “Too bad?” I’m sorry, but the world doesn’t work that way. The lighting in this scene is so bad that the officer’s face is just a brown blob. The family drives off again and Margaret says that they should be almost there…at least I think that’s what she says but the song in the background is drowning out her dialogue. Oh yeah, the song’s terrible too. I’d rather be listening to a screeching cat while Solja Boy is playing – ok, scratch Solja Boy, the song’s better than his rapping is.
(notice the clapboard in the shot. They didn't even take the time to remove that in post)
The song suddenly changes as the camera cuts to a couple making out and drinking booze. You’d think they’d be further along with all that booze but whatever. The cut is incredibly jarring and distracting, removing you completely from the film…well, it would if you were invested into it to begin with. A car drives by them, and ten seconds later they look ahead. The girl asks where the other car was heading, and the boy mentions some road. I can’t really hear what he was saying, but I already don’t care.
Next up is several minutes of straight driving. The camera is looking out the front window as the car drives along, switching camera shots every now and then to remind you that their camera is crap. Is this all the movie is?
We cut back to the couple making out. The cops stop beside their car and question them. They boy says that the couple is not doing nothing wrong, and the cops tell them to not do stuff somewhere else. Since when was kissing on the side of the road illegal? If anything, you should take his booze away or arrest him for drunk driving, but since you have no evidence of their alcohol you should just leave. The girl pauses for four seconds before saying,
“Can’t you just leave us alone?” Yup, because pausing for four seconds before asking an officer to leave you alone always works. This is a stupid movie.
Next up, more driving…because several straight minutes just wasn’t enough. The family eventually arrives at some building to ask for directions. The man at the building introduces himself as Torgo.
It’s worth noting that the actor for Torgo killed himself with a shotgun before the movie even released, although it may not have been related to the movie. Torgo says that he looks after the place while the master is gone. Mike tells him they just want directions to…something. Torgo tells Mike that there is no such place nearby. He also says that the master hates children. Mike asks how to get out of the area, and Torgo pauses before answering,
"There is no way out of here, it will be dark soon, there is no way out of here."
Margaret wants to leave, but Mike argues that they should stay? Why? If Torgo is saying there is no way out and keeps referring to “the master”, there’s clearly something wrong with this place. Mike is the most useless husband and father I’ve ever seen in a movie. The movie then has a full minute of people staring at each other. This was commonly used as suspense back then, but when everyone has blank stares like this, it’s boring and stupid. Torgo eventually lets the family in and helps Mike bring in their luggage. Torgo walks awkwardly slow in this movie. Apparently they wanted him to play as a satyr, so they made the actor wear a metallic rigging under his trousers – of course he accidentally put them on backwards. What are the chances that the movie will feature multiple scenes of padding as he slowly walks around doing stuff? As you’ve probably guessed, the chances are very high.
Inside the, um…building, there are a bunch of hand statues above a fireplace. Looks like their taking this “hand” thing way too seriously. There’s also a painting of some mustached guy with pale white skin and a big black dog. I can’t really see the dog too well in the painting, but Torgo describes it as the most vicious animal ever.
Of course every time we see the dog in the actual movie, it seems calm and friendly. Anyway, the camera keeps staring at the painting, cutting occasionally to Margaret who says she’s scared. Torgo taps on Mike’s shoulder with his cane and tells him that the painting is of the master. He says that the master has left this world but he is always with “us.” Time for you to leave Mike!
Torgo says that the master likes Margaret and that nothing bad will happen to her. Margaret asks how that’s possible if he’s dead. Great questions Margaret, now run out of there! Torgo answers that the master isn’t dead – not the way we know it, and that he is always with “us.” Torgo says this several times over, further cementing the idea that it’s time to get out of there! Margaret says that she’s scared and wants to leave. Of course, being the utterly incompetent man that he is, Mike says that it’s all in her imagination and they should stay. Know what, Margaret is fairly useless as well since she doesn’t defend herself or point out that something is wrong. She simply states that she’s scared like a five-year-old would. These are the most useless parents I’ve ever seen in a movie. Anyway, Torgo shoes the family their room.
Later that evening, they hear a howling outside, so Mike opens the door to check it out. The family dog, which seemed to come out of nowhere, runs out the door and starts barking. The father takes a flashlight out of the car and starts walking toward the source of the barking. He finds their dog, dead. I’m so glad the family dog was in the movie for about a minute, he was so vitally important to the non-plot.
Margaret steps outside, then somehow in the next shot her hair appears blonde. She gasps and brings her hands up to her face, and in the next shot she does the exact same thing except her hair looks brown again. What is going on here? Mike tells Margaret rather firmly to get back in the house as she cries three times,
(Mike and Margaret, aka. the most utterly incompetent movie parents ever)
“What kind of place is this?” Holy crap the dialogue in this movie is more repetitive than “Jacob Two Two.” Also, if your wife is crying, it’s time to leave you blockheaded twit! The camera cuts to a shot of Mike pushing Margaret into the house; Mike’s suddenly holding a gun in one hand. Where did that come from? Mike holding a gun and flashlight does remind me of Alan Wake and that I’d much rather be playing that than watching this crap.
Margaret asks if they can leave, and Mike agrees out of nowhere. Straight from pushing her back inside to agreeing to leave? Did Mike forget his crazy pills this morning? Mike calls Torgo to help him load the car and Torgo agrees, even though Torgo was trying to convince them to stay earlier. This movie makes less sense than a lawnmower taking ballet lessons from Arnold Schwarzenegger. Of course, their car won’t start so the family is stuck at the master’s shack.
Torgo starts talking to Margaret and tells her that the master likes beautiful women. He says that the master wants her as his wife and then awkwardly moves in to touch her hair. She lets him for a full 30 seconds without even moving finally backing off.
"Don't you ever try that again," she says. Torgo then keeps babbling on about how the master wants her but can’t have her because Torgo wants her for himself. Margaret shouts out for Mike (this is the first time we hear Mike’s name by the way,) but he’s trying to fix the car and thus he can’t hear her. She then demands out and threatens to tell Mike. Torgo apologizes and says,
“I’ll protect you.”
“Very well, I won’t tell my husband.” Uh, why? Torgo is making advances to you, you should tell Mike everything because it’s clear that Torgo is either insane or is serving someone very, very evil.
Mike pops into the house and asks to use the telephone – several times I should say. Torgo pauses for a few seconds before informing Mike that the master doesn’t believe in “such devices.” Mike decides again to stay the night, once again showing us how utterly useless this nincompoop is. This is also where Mike finally reveals their kid’s name by saying that Debbie will understand – understand what? Debbie has hardly said anything so far in this movie, are they implying that she’s scared? I’m not getting any kind of impression of Debbie whatsoever; show, don’t tell!
Debbie runs out of the house while Mike and Margaret are talking, and even though Mike was looking in Debbie’s general direction, as the parents turn they have no idea where she went. They look around the house and find that all the doors have bolt locks on them – even the kitchen. Of course this isn’t important since nothing ever comes of this, so I don’t know why they even bothered here. The parents then walk outside where they find Debbie. Margaret immediately recognizes the dog from the painting, who Debbie is apparently walking with, but this shot is so dark I can barely make out Debbie’s location. I really hate this movie, can’t you tell?
The parents take Debbie back inside and ask where she got the dog from. Debbie answers,
“In a big place.”
Mike decides to go to this non-descript big place, and then the movie cuts to a campfire. I think it’s supposed to look satanic or something, but it’s really just a campfire. There are six or so women standing around the fire, completely still, and there’s a man in a red cape lying down. Margaret says, as always, that it’s horrible so Mike says,
“Let’s go.” I’d say I don’t understand this movie, but there really isn’t anything to understand. Either way, this movie hurts – let it end. Please, let it end! Mike tells Margaret to lock the bedroom door and says,
“I'm going to find Torgo, he's got some explaining to do.”
“Hurry, please hurry,” Margaret replies.
Now Torgo is at the campfire, telling the red-suited man, whom I assume is the master, that he wants Margaret. He then looks at one of the women and exposits that she is the master’s first wife and that neither himself nor the master wants her anymore. I don’t know either, just roll with it. Is this all the movie is? Some guy wants to marry a bunch of women and have them stand around a campfire all day? It’s turning Mormons into a horror movie plot – that is weak.
Margaret is getting ready for bed when, uh oh…Torgo is staring at her through the window. When she turns around, Torgo is gone. Next shot we see Mike walking, and then Torgo hits Mike in the back of the head with his cane and knocks him out. These jump cuts are starting to get rather frustrating. Torgo then takes up a full minute of screen time dragging Mike to a post and tying him to it. This shot is over 60% black and I can barely make out what’s going on, and the majority of the rest of the movie is like this too. It was so important to see the disabled man take two full minutes to drag Mike on the ground – the same way it’s important to hold a glass for five minutes and not drink from it while there’s a perfectly good table in front of you to put it down on.
Next up, the campfire returns. Now the master is lying on a stone table…wait. Where did the table come from? If it was there before, I couldn’t see it because of how dark the night shots are. There’s also a bunch of stone pillars that the master’s wives are standing in front of. Anyway, the master slowly stands up, walks back and forth a bit, and sits back down.
The movie cuts back to the couple that were making out earlier and the cops come back to complain again. The couple takes off again and that’s the scene. Glad that was in the movie, aren’t you?
The movie returns to the master, and he’s standing back up now. He points his hand at the fire and calls out to someone named “Manos.” He praises Manos as holy, holy and…holy. He tells his wives to arise, even though they’re already standing. During that shot, the wives are standing still. The screen goes black for a second, and after the picture returns the wives are sitting in a circle arguing about what to do with the child (Debbie.) So you show Torgo dragging Mike for several minutes but you don’t show the wives starting to move? Showing the wives starting to move out of nowhere could have been a bit creepy, yet that is what they decided to remove? I’ve lost all hope for this movie, it’ll never get good.
Moving on, one of the wives argues that the child should live because it’s a girl and she’ll grow into a woman. The others argue that the child must die. The master says that the father and child must die, and then he heads out to deal with Torgo. After the master leaves, the wives continue arguing – even though their Master has spoken. The wives even start cat-fighting over this nonsense. Normally a fight like this is naturally hot, but this is just stupid and annoying and it goes on for five minutes straight.
Finally, we see the master walking up to Torgo inside the house. Torgo takes about a minute to stand up as the master stares at him. Could we possibly drag this movie out any longer? The master tells Torgo that he can never have a wife and that he must die for failing “us.” He explains that even if the wives are motionless, they can still hear everything spoken in their resting place. The two of them stare at each other for a full minute before the master finally turns toward the camera. He calls out to “Manos” again and says that Torgo must die. Forget my Jacob Two Two remark, this is more repetitive than Goldeneye: Rogue Agent.
One of the wives discovers Mike tied to…whatever he’s tied to. She kisses him for a while then slaps him a couple times. Again, I’m so glad that pointless scene was in the movie. Next up…more cat fighting before the movie fades to black. Wait I’m sorry, it’s not fading to black, it’s just a very poorly lit shot of the master and one of his wives talking about how the others are fighting. Do we really need more footage of this fight? It’s about as interesting as watching paint dry in the rain.
Margaret is sitting in the bedroom, wondering where Mike is. She catches the master staring at her through the window and then…more footage of the wives fighting – AAAAAAARG! At last the master orders them to stop, then the movie cuts to the master and his wives standing around the campfire. One of the wives argues to the master that the child shouldn’t die, so the master orders the rest of the wives to sacrifice her after they’re done with Torgo because,
“Manos must be served.”
Two of the wives bring Torgo to the stone table and lay him down. The master says,
“Well done my wives, the will of Manos will be served.” Two other wives stand over Torgo and at the master’s command, they start pulling at his clothes and slapping him. The master repeatedly shouts “Kill, kill.” Seriously, the wives look more like they’re trying to wake Torgo up than anything else – oh the horror.
Again we cut to Margaret crying,
"Oh Mike, help us."
She’s holding Debbie during this shot, even though Debbie has never shown up in the bedroom before. Consistency!
Mike wakes up and struggles out of…whatever tied him to…whatever he was tied to. He breaks free and grabs his flashlight/gun combo. Really? They really left his equipment right there? Also, Torgo must be really bad at tying knots if Mike was able to escape in less than 10 seconds. Mike then walks up to the unguarded house and asks Margaret to unlock the door.
Back at the campfire, the master shouts,
“Enough, the ceremony is done!” The wives push Torgo off the stone bed, and he stands back up. The master walks Torgo toward the campfire and the camera cuts to a shot of the master holding a fake burning arm. So let me get this straight, the fire would have vaporized Torgo instantly, thus the clawing scene was completely pointless. The will of Hollywood must be served, kill this movie, kill, kill! The master laughs; it’s supposed to be an evil laugh, but it sounds more like a socially awkward creep laughing at his favorite comedy show.
We are forced to sit through a three-minute long conversation where the to-be-sacrificed wife keeps going on and on about how she’s not scared of the master anymore and that his power is fading. The master replies by slapping her in the face over and over again. Can’t you see that slapping is doing nothing? I would have thought that you’d try punching or chopping by now.
Cut to Mike, Margaret, and Debbie running away. Mike trips and falls, only to stand right back up and keep running because all horror movies need a pointless tripping scene. One of the wives informs the master that the family is missing, so the master orders his wives to find them. Back with the family, Margaret trips and falls, because Mike tripping wasn’t enough for this stupid movie. Margaret complains that she can’t make it. Really? You can’t jog away for a mere 30 seconds without collapsing in exhaustion? You really are the most useless mother in history.
Margaret then suggests the unthinkable – she suggests that they go back to the house and hide there because nobody would think to look for them in the house. What? What? What? What? What? Yeah, I said that out loud - that line of dialogue was so incredibly stupid that the movie's making me repeat myself the same way it's characters do. To make matters worse, the husband actually agrees. Of all the times you could have listened to your wife, why are you listening to this suggestion that’s completely void of logic, reason, or sanity? Mike suggests that they lock themselves in the kitchen and mentions that he has a gun. He then fires the gun twice at…something. I think it’s a snake, but the shot’s so dark I can’t tell.
In the next scene, the cops stop their car in a field and step out. After standing at the car for 20 seconds and staring into the wilderness, they talk about how they heard a gunshot. The one cop comments that sound travels far at night, and the shot could have even been all the way in Mexico. I would normally start talking about how sound works here, but my brain shut down with the “hide in the house” thing earlier. The cops step back into the car and drive away. I guess that means the cops had absolutely no purpose in this movie then, and same goes for the kissing couple. The original intention was to have the cops look around for a bit, but because of the moths flying around the lights, it was too dark for the cops to see anything. As a result, they just step back in the car and leave. You know, there are ways to repel moths, USE THEM! Also, if the cops heard the gunshots, WHY DIDN’T THE MASTER AND HIS WIVES HEAR THEM? Uh, it hurts!
The master walks into the house and looks around for a bit. He finds the family there. Mike points his gun at the master’s face and fires twice. The master stares at them for a few more seconds and then the movie cuts to the next day. What just happened? Was it a really bad death scene, or is the master invulnerable to bullets?
Anyway, we see two older women driving along. They’re talking about how it’s good to get away, and then we see…oh no, more driving footage. The women pass by the kissing couple – they’re still going at it? I no longer believe this is a movie. I don’t even know what this is? The women stop by the master’s house and Mike is standing outside.
"I take care of this place while the master is away."
The movie finishes with shots of the master and his wives, which now includes Margaret and Debbie. What? The master changed his plans for the child and made her his young wife? Frick this movie! I never want to see this piece of crap again.
Two word review – THE PAIN...
I know it's a bit late, but HAPPY NEW YEARS EVERYONE!