Manos: The Hands of Fate

Manos: The Hands of Fate ★★★★

I'm a big believer that some things, at least in their purest form, cannot be learned. Yes, people can become legitimately great at many things at which they're not naturally gifted via hard work, study, and dedication. But some people are simply born with it. It's not an easy distinction to draw, but when you see one of those naturals at work, you know that you're witnessing something rarified.

That's why the Manos mythos holds strong while so many similar amateur productions go down as simply noble efforts. Hal Warren was not a natural filmmaker, actor, writer, or film artist of any kind. What Hal Warren had was an innate flair for unpleasantness. All the hard work and film scholarship in the world could never hope to capture the perverse, pervasive ugliness that manifests in every dreary frame, oddly emphasized line reading, and ill-matched jazz riff of Manos.

Even on my fifth or so viewing, this movie continues to surprise and amaze me by being a singularly unpleasant cinematic experience in a way that doesn't resemble anything else I've ever seen. That kind of soul-deep ugliness is something you either have inside of you or you don't, and at least from a filmic perspective, Hal Warren was born with reserves of ugliness the rest of us can only dream of.