Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Inheritance (2011)

Their heritage awaits

Ever fancy you were born into a wealthy and successful family: the lazy wish where you wouldn't have to struggle and things are easily lined up? "The Inheritance" is a story that puts a twist on that pipe dream by mixing aspects of ancestry, race, religion, folklore and the supernatural all together into a boiling cauldron of horror and drama with a little bit of humor about scary movies and black stereotypes. This is an original tale that has enough of its own to get by though some homage is given, such as "The Evil Dead" with the cabin in the woods and occult manuscript, "Candyman" with a slave having an injustice but gaining a vengeful upperhand, and "The Wicker Man" with sacrifices for the benefit of the tribe or family.

Five cousins--two woman, three men--from rich, black families dating back to the 1800s meet at an isolated house during a snow storm for a reunion, along with--get this--a "token" white couple that one of the cousins used for a ride. Uncle Melvin (Keith David) left a note that he'll be there tomorrow but left alcohol and ganja behind to have a good time with in his absence. Everybody uses the substances to get loosened up by having fun and games until the prospect of money is brought up for their possible inheritance. Attempting to get the party back on track, one of them picks up a hand drum and rhythmically plays it, while another dances and someone else reads from an ancient looking book found next to it. Suddenly the last words read, "The flesh is the strength," appear on the outside window and the woman dancing freaks when she claims someone was there.

After sleeping off what was thought of as a bad trip, the elders arrive for the "family reunion," which is more like a traditional ceremony with a tale of how the relatives came to prominence. A flashback is shown during the time of slavery in the US with a man named Chakabazz who mysteriously arrived alone on a ship with crew missing. They attempted to lynch him but he survived. Something like a Wong Fei-hung with a dark side, he turns out to be a witch doctor who can help the desperate black community stand up against the intolerant white man and slave owners, help them attain their freedom, as well as give them wealth and prosperity, but all at an evil cost. Because nothing's free, right? Chakabazz accumulates followers who want in and requires the best and brightest of the people's children for a blood sacrifice, and for each generation after to maintain the riches they have to spill more of their own kin's blood. All of this is told to the young cousins who don't take it seriously until more things go awry and get spooky. Though if everything the elders said were true, it makes you wonder why they were even told at all since they're more than old enough to know better and fight back.

This is a story where money is the root of all evil: a young generation who wants a hand out and doesn't entirely care about family relations, and then an older generation that achieves wealth and success but at a price of sacrifices of their own blood relatives. Not really a win-win situation. The story is somewhat confusing at times, which interrupts the experience and pacing. It's mentioned that the current elders were once chosen themselves but it's skips over why they're possessed to the point of enjoying being sadistic--maniacal laughter and all--rather than doing it out of necessity. Though apart from the greed aspect, what's the message or the relating factor? Don't accept anything such as a handout you didn't work for? Don't meet at an isolated location during a storm? Don't trust your distant relatives, stick closer with your intermediate ones? Overall, this just seemed like it wanted to rush through the ground rules with the main intention of showing a bloodbath, except for such an oppressive horror tale you can minus the copious blood as killings are done off screen and there's very little gore.

Eventually this starts to feel padded with filler that goes into a repetitious circle: the elders and these strange straw-henchmen-like things appearing and disappearing and the cousins running back and forth to get away makes you feel like you're being strung along instead of providing answers or even substantial action. It doesn't even delve into if unreasonable traditions should be broken since they made more sense in slave days, or adequately show that these young folks have any growth, hope or strength of character instead of having them fumble around and strike lucky. It feels like the filmmakers bit off more than they could chew and got too far ahead of themselves, even with the ending feeling like a cop out and not as developed from previously having so much time invested in the cousin characters.

Even with everything said, "The Inheritance" had potential, as the performances weren't half bad, the music was well-timed out to lend some feeling, some specific scenes were indeed effective and somewhat creative, and with the budget considered this didn't feel entirely cheap. Though the script, continuity and pacing left some things to be desired. Multiple genres are ambitiously tackled and sometimes it's hard to know what the filmmakers want to portray or make you feel as a viewer. Not to mention random things happen at random times, which can make you scratch your head rather than grab your heart as the suspense and scares can feel somewhat forced at times. Though this does have a few that work more on being uncomfortable than frightening.

Rating: 4/10

Stars: Keith David, Rochelle Aytes, Golden Brooks, D.B. Woodside, Lanre Idewu
Link: IMDB

Historical questions from the Black and Red (Answers below, don't cheat!):

1. Which side proved victorious in the American Civil War? (Extra: Which year did it end?)
2. How many states made up the Confederacy and how many the Union?
3. Who put a cap in President Abraham Lincoln? (Extra: At which destination?)
4. Which ocean provided the slave trade?
5. Which amendment abolished slavery?

1. Confederacy, jk. The Union/North. 1865.
2. 11. 25.
3. John Wilkes Booth. Ford's Theatre.
4. Atlantic.
5. 13th.

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