I recall visiting a horror movie convention soon after Kill Bill had come out. Nearly every film production table had at least one "sexy lady getting revenge" movie poster predominantly on display. Attractive female murderers are the perfect shortcut to fulfilling violence and sex in films. Over the years, the number of "lady revenge" movies has dwindled.
However, there are a few stragglers being produced, like Manhater. Manhater is described as "horror... with a good, unique story," but to consider it a horror film is questionable. Instead, I consider it a supernatural film with a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde plot, punctuated with gore and nudity.
The story is neither good nor unique. The plot is, well, this: An abuse survivor takes a magic potion from a witch, and the potion makes a demon appear. The demon kills all the men that hurt the woman, but the witch is actually involved with the woman's rapist. The rapist wants to control the demon and has a glowing necklace that he holds while talking gibberish at the demon. Yes, you read correctly.
First, kudos to the crew and performers who stuck it out until the end! I wonder if they were paid; hopefully, they were at least fed lunch. Some of the performers went by aliases in the credits. Were they embarrassed to be in this film? Also, the film score earned "Best Original Soundtrack at Idyllwild," though I hardly noticed it.
This film’s creators don't seem to have valued good production in any form. The camera work varies anywhere from poor to acceptable quality. I noticed camera shakes, awkward movements, and questionable shots. The lighting is sometimes off or completely absent. There are a few outdoor scenes in pitch-black darkness. The audio doesn't always sync up with its source. Lips are moving without sound at times, like in poorly dubbed kung-fu films. The editing is unclean. Many cuts did not mesh well with others or were abruptly cut off.
The makeup is better meant for a theatrical stage, not a film screen. Big, false eyelashes are distracting and corny on movie performers. Also, at one point, a woman has paintbrush stripes on her cheeks for blush. The acting talent ranges from non-existent to lukewarm. These performers would have shone more if they were given character roles with more than one dimension. The characters are unrealistic, unlikable, or both.
Also, there is a Token Black Female Best Friend in this film. You know, in predominantly white films, we sometimes see a black female best friend who has no real personality other than to act as a cheerleader for the (usually bitter) white female protagonist (as in the film Julie and Julia). The story gets more ridiculous by the second, the plot holes are vast, and the dialogue is vapid. The special effects, while respectable on such a low budget, are pretty dorky.
Most problematic, this film begins with a rape scene. It's obviously fake, but still graphic, and insensitive to both performers and viewers alike. If a movie absolutely requires such a scene, then it needs to do it with understanding and discretion. Later in the movie, the survivor talks to the abuser; not just once, but often, and in a mildly annoyed tone more appropriate towards someone who owes her money, not someone who has brutally assaulted her. She even accepts an invitation to join him alone in his house.
The writer of this film clearly does not understand the seriousness of sexual assault, instead confusing it with edgy sex. The fact that he botched this topic, as well as the film’s overt objectification of women and senseless gore, proves that Manhater is just another cheap combo platter of sex and violence to be devoured by stupid people.