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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

THE INHERITANCE -- DVD review by porfle

It's like Black History Month gone bad when young cousins from five families, descended from slaves, learn more about their "roots" than they bargained for in THE INHERITANCE (2011).  And, as is usually the case in movies like this, the pagan superstitions blithely dismissed by the sophisticated modern youths turn out to be horribly true. 

Writer-director Robert O'Hara's script seems a little dry and talky at first as the five cousins--Karen (Golden Brooks), Henry (D.B. Woodside), Tyrone (Darrin Dewitt Henson), Lily (Rochelle Aytes), and the irreverent Simpson (Shawn Michael Howard)--congregate in an isolated snow-covered mansion to await the arrival of "the Elders" of the five families and find out who's going to eventually inherit what. 

Things get a little livelier that night as their booze and weed-stoked revelries are interrupted when Lily, seemingly possessed, goes into a wild dance and then screams her head off at the sight of the words "The flesh is the strength" scrawled across a window.  The creepy Elders show up the next day, led by Uncle Melvin (Keith David at his most super-smug), and begin to school the young 'uns on their heritage.  It seems their enslaved ancestors were promised freedom and prosperity if they would sacrifice their "best and brightest" children to a fearsome godlike being named Chakabazz (Lanre Idewu), which they did.

Despite Simpson's vocal skepticism, this pretty much lets us know what we and the five sacrificial lambs--err, cousins--can expect for the rest of the film.  As little by little we learn how bizarre and malevolent the Elder cult really is, O'Hara's direction and camerawork become wilder and more frantic.  He stages some nice setpieces, such as Lily's attempted escape from the house and a spooky candlelit bath during which Karen discovers she's the lucky "chosen one" of you-know-who. 

Some ghostly apparitions are fairly well-rendered although, despite a "gotcha!" or two, the film never really scares.  It does, however, get our adrenaline going as the cousins flee for their lives.  It goes without saying that (a) their car won't start, (b) one of them suffers a crippling injury, and (c) everything they try to do goes straight south real quick.  O'Hara manages to keep it all from getting too chaotic, and his dialogue displays some welcome color as in this exchange involving defensive weaponry:

Henry: "Will you man the f-ck up?  You have a hatchet, g--dammit!"
Simpson: "He's got a chainsaw and you've got a snowmobile!"

The finale takes place back at the house, where the survivors make a last ditch effort to fend off the Elders while Simpson tries to contact the outside world on his laptop.  Things remain pretty suspenseful right up to the fadeout, although the ending is much too abrupt.  It's as though O'Hara ran out of ideas and, lacking an imaginative resolution to his story, simply settled for the most arbitrary one he could think of.  Just when things are at their peak, the end credits appear and leave us hanging.

Despite the fact that some of the ensemble acting doesn't quite jell, the cast is generally above average.  Standouts include Golden Brooks and D.B. Woodside, who have at least one really good scene together, and of course the always reliable Keith David.  In a brief appearance as Aunt Felicia, who shows up unexpectedly early on to warn the young folks about the old folks, Adriane Lenox makes a strong impression.

Gorehounds looking for a good bloodbath will have to settle for some after-the-fact stuff like a head on a stick and a torso (no moreso, just a torso), with most of the violence occurring offscreen.  The film benefits from a rather robust musical score by Nathan Furst.

The DVD from Image Entertainment is in 1.85:1 widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  A trailer is the sole extra.

While THE INHERITANCE doesn't rise that far above the pack of similar flicks about dwindling groups of imperiled young people, its premise does boast a few unique elements.  And just when you think you're in for a preachy history lesson or something, it does a cannonball right into the deep end of the hokey horror pool.  

Buy it at


Andrew Green said...

That cover art had my hopes up. This one seems to be a bit ho-hum.

porfle said...

Yeah, that pic could definitely be considered a bit misleading.

Anonymous said...

" It seems their enslaved ancestors were promised freedom and prosperity if they would sacrifice their "best and brightest" children to a fearsome godlike being named Chakabazz (Lanre Idewu), which they did. "

Uhm. Did a white guy write this movie ?

porfle said...

Nope, writer-director Robert O'Hara is a black guy.