INHERITANCE *** USA 2017 Dir: Tyler Savage 90 mins
Writer-director Tyler Savage’s feature debut stars a suitably low-key Chase Joliet as an emotionally stunted, haunted young man who inherits his estranged birth father’s $2.5 million gated property in the coastal town of Herald Point. Immediate warning sign: an ominous letter from Dad warning he should sell the place immediately.
Savage’s evocative picture finds a portentous sense of menace in the idyllic Malibu location, the beautiful view betraying the blood historically spilled on the land. A deliberately paced, character-driven story of the cycle of violence lurking at the heart of many families, it achieves much of its impact from straight dramatic scenes – notably, an uncomfortable domestic dinner sequence with Joilet’s sister shot in one long, authentically unpleasant take. Avoiding horror clichés but making the most of increasingly oppressive sound design, Savage captures some haunting imagery yet offers little on screen more explicit than a slowly cracking wall. It’s an often beautifully framed exercise in simmering menace, with Joilet’s stripped down performance paying off in the final act, and Sara Montez radiating warmth and conviction in the traditionally underwhelming “fiancée” role. Downplaying actual manifestations of the paranormal in favour of the ghosts of the past, it won’t satisfy those looking for traditional horror movie thrills, but its many virtues will not be lost on more patient viewers.
Review by Steven West