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Who we are and where we come from as a person often makes for one of life’s more challenging journeys. Looking to our past is the best place to begin in understanding our future, though for some, where they come from is not so easy to know. New horror/thriller Inheritance, world premiering at Dances With Films this week, explores one such story with a stylish atmospheric debut from a name to remember.
We meet Ryan Bowman (Chase Joliet), an everyman woodworker who gets a visit from a man who gives him some bad news. His father has died, though not the one who adopted him and raised him but a man he thought was long dead already. A man absent from his entire life. Ryan learns he’s inherited beachfront property and a beautiful home worth a few million dollars and so takes his pregnant fiancé Isi (Sara Montez) with him to give it a look. A deeply solemn man already, Ryan begins to feel a presence about the house and as time passes, slips into a slow darkness where he begins to doubt reality.
Written and directed by Tyler Savage, in his feature film debut, Inheritance is, if anything, a director’s film. In nearly every shot, we are aware of the camera and how Savage uses it. From long, desperately slow pans and zooms to awkward angles and slow-motion, we are at all times deeply immersed in the experience, even when we are meant to not know quite why. Savage is incredibly confident in his technique, staging a third act with a molasses pace that is wrought with moody glances and curious visions. That might sound like a criticism yet is anything but, as Savage allows these seemingly lethargic moments to coalesce into a truly disturbing revelation. Unearthly creaks moan from the walls, imagery of sepia-toned and black & white old-time photographs flicker in succession, and an unnerving drone in the score throbs with unsettling unease. There’s a gnawing, deliberate weight that presses you to ask, “What is happening?”
It’s a question with no easy answers, and while the stoic Ryan slowly descends into a kind of madness, Savage repeats seemingly random yet crucial visuals, luring us along with bread crumbs to help us keep up, though there is plenty of ambiguity here as well. Clear themes emerge in time and making connections aren’t entirely impossible, yet needless to say, this is less about the conclusion than the manner in which we get there.
What’s best is Savage’s sure hand. The film is beautiful to look at – and listen to – as he transitions from scene to scene keeping the mostly single location always interesting. Both Joliet and Montez are very good with Joliet’s metamorphosis a carefully guarded bit of acting that sits like a simmering kettle waiting for the heat to rise. Montez is in a more difficult role, playing the trope-ish fiancé who must deal with the changes happening in her house. Montez does it well.
While Inheritance is a standard story, there is an experimentation to it that helps set it apart enough to merit a look. It is much more a thinking thriller than a horror, with barely any real frights, so fans of the genre may feel cheated, but that should not deter those looking for something a little darker to think about.
Inheritance just premiered at Dances With Film, June 2nd.
Movie description: Inheritance is a 2017 horror/thriller about a young man who learns of a loss and takes possession of something given to him that slowly unravels a dark past.
Director(s): Tyler Savage
Actor(s): Chase Joliet, Sara Montez, Dale Dickey