Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Review: Inheritance

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2018
Images from the Internet

Written and directed by Tyler Savage
Portola Films / Other Brother
92 minutes, 2017

Taken loosely, the term inheritance can be more than merely objects; it can be inherent within a group or liniage. This film nicely plays with a variety these extrapolated terms.

Tyler Savage, in his first full-length feature, uses what he has learned so far and presents a picture that is a fine mix of storytelling and artistic endeavor, without ever going into the opaque; in other words, he doesn’t “talk” over the heads of his audience, but at the same time doesn’t talk down to them/us, either.

Chase Joliet, Jake Carpenter
A construction worker/contractor named Ryan (Chase Joliet), who believed he was an orphan since childhood, quite unexpectedly receives a notice that he’s now the heir to his recently deceased biological father’s property. It’s a beautiful beach house facing the Pacific, just outside a small town in California. He is also informed that it is worth more than a couple of mil. Unsure of whether he will sell, he brings along his recently pregnant girlfriend, Isi (the lovely Sara Montez, who sports some wickedly sculpted eyebrows) to check it out. Though I thought her character was too physically absent through parts, I understand why: to see the changes in her partner. Besides, she’s more excited about the coming kid than he seems to be… awwwwwkawrrrrrd.

Not long after they lay down their bones to adjust to the place, weird things begin to perk. Well, to him anyway, both in the living and the… unknown. The first 20 minutes is a bit slow paced, and not much has happened other than some odd behaviors of others, such as the store clerk (Alex Dobrenko) who’s sweet but ungainly (and obviously develops a crush on Isi), that pesky real estate agent that’s the equivalent of an ambulance chasing lawyer (Dale Dickey; many times the real estate agent is a forward scout for whatever strangeness is afoot, but I’m not saying if she is or not), the next door neighbor (Krisha Fairchild) who spies on them, and a cousin (Drew Powell) who is just… ugh; there is, though, a mild jump scare or two.
While this story does delve into the possible supernatural, this is definitely dips into the psychological thriller genre (is it all in Ryan’s head?: an old but effective trope), arguably more than the horror. With the possibilities of ghosts we begin to wonder about the cause of Ryan’s descent into… (cue spooky Theremin sound).

There’s a little bit Amityville house in the effect on Ryan, a touch of Overlook Hotel with negative influences of what went on earlier, and perhaps even a touch of the first season of American Horror Story. Or, as I said before, is it all in his head? For example, many of those he sees from the past, such as his father (Tim Abel) or grandfather (Jake Carpenter), occur after he sees photographs of them. So which one is it? Again, I ain’t tellin’. Just know even though it’s a bit derivative, as is 99 percent of all cinema, it tells a good story with some nice touches to keep the viewer interested.

Beautiful cinematography
There is some absolutely beautiful cinematography here. For example, in the first third, we get to enjoy some close-up shots leaning towards the golden tone, such as amber alcohol being poured into a glass followed by the sunset light on the house, eggs frying in a pan, or Ryan’s hand caressing Isi’s bare belly. In other sections, there is more of a blue tone, such as moonlight on faces. It’s all quite luxurious, and fortunately doesn’t take one out of the moment, but rather links one scene to the next.

Speaking of being taken out of a scene, if you will offer me a moment of self-indulgence: my biggest distraction early on was when Ryan was contemplatively rummaging through a garage and comes across a box of old LPs, and for the next few minutes I got lost wondering what were those albums. Fortunately, we get to hear some of the music as that box becomes part of the story.

Sara Montez, Alex Dobrenko
One interesting aspect of the film that really drew my attention and I would have been pleased if it had been a stronger focus – even though it’s kind of a backbone of the motif – is the historical mistreatment of the Indigenous people by the white (especially male for several reasons) settlers, that is obviously continuing.

For me, the film’s one drawback is its length, as it could have been cut down some through repetition and going beyond where it needs to, to establish the scene’s motive. For example, there is a dinner conversation between Ryan and his sister that is (purposefully) uncomfortable at best. This could easily have been shorter – we get it, they don’t get along.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like this is a bunch of padding with some story, it’s quite the other way around. Savage tells a good tale that is engaging, even with an ending that I kinda saw coming in some way in an aha moment about a third way through after I had enough information; and even so, the film kept my interest for a number of reasons.

For example, the cast is quite good. Joliet is in most scenes, and carries the film with just the right amount of sullenness, anger, and fear, without playing it over the top (as did James Brolin in Amityville Horror, or especially Jack Nicolson in The Shining – both actors I admire). Montez shines enough to not fall into Joliet’s shadow. Actually, as far as presence, the entire cast holds their own.

There are few scenes of violence, which of course make them a bit more unsettling for their unexpected nature, and while there are a few steamy scenes, no real nudity. Again, it’s not that kind of film, as it’s more story based than the biff-bang-boom of the day. Honestly, the film is better for it.

For a first full lengther (yes, I know it’s not a word, but should be), Savage show some oomph, and I look forward to seeing his growth, especially if this is only the ground floor.

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