Since the days of the Blaxploitation genre, there haven't been all that many black interest-oriented horror films. I'm not saying that we need to redo all the horror classics and put an emphasis on having the occasional survivor girl or killer be a bit more ethnically diverse, but we could certainly stand to see a few more slasher, ghost, or undead films featuring less-predominantly white casts.
'The Inheritance', a direct-to-video supernatural thriller from first-time writer/director Robert O'Hara, is not the answer to this issue. It may even be seen as part of the problem.
Five cousins reunite, and head up to a very expensive family cabin for what they think will be a reunion. Each has their eyes set on trying to secure some money from their relatives, more than they have any interest in getting back in touch with anyone. Little do they know that their relatives have something else in store for them, something far more sinister, a rite of passage, as it were, that many of them will not survive. As the cousins try to band together to save themselves, they come to understand that the past will always dominate their lives.
On paper, I like the idea of 'The Inheritance,' but only on paper. The basic premise, that former slaves made sacrifices to ensure the future success of their families, is a good one, especially due to the amazingly harsh and cruel conditions they lived under. The problem is that the execution of the idea, as well as the message, get garbled up in the attempts to create a sinister, ominous vibe.
Notice I said sacrifices in the previous paragraph? I wasn't talking about forgoing one's own happiness for the sake of others. I was talking about religious style sacrifice, with families sacrificing their children, generation to generation, to ensure the continued prosperity of their clan. The film just doesn't sound all that interesting anymore, does it? From the opening scenes, where we see a blood splattered family tree, we know we're in for some schlock, especially since it gives away far too much of the plot to come, but 'The Inheritance' takes all the positives it had going for it in the opening twenty or so minutes and just obliterates them. The infighting and realistic behavior and relationships of the kinfolk? Abandoned. Instead, we get Chakabazz, a mystical man who helped free the slaves. Chakabazz. Chakabazz. I keep saying that, because the final twenty minutes of the film say the name more than any other word put together, it seems.
The lack of experience on O'Hara's part shines through often, as the story bumbles its way through scenes, dialogue is ridiculous, and the lack of real tension is a mood killer. The cast? Honestly, they're not half bad, especially considering what they're given to work with. I could see this very cast shining in a better written film, I really could. As the film rolls on, the moods change too often, too fast, and the film even abandons its audience by splitting the screen three ways at one point, to try to be fancy, when it was completely unnecessary to the story or the sequence. Gore? Good luck with that. Really, with the less-than-a-million budget in play, it seems practical or special effects were abandoned for our imagination, so there isn't even the exploitative blood frenzy that can make even some of the worst horror films at least watchable.
'The Inheritance' could have been a good film, if it had tried to adhere to one tone, the dysfunctional, disenfranchised family struggling with each other, with generation fighting generation. Rather, the film tries too hard to be something more than it is, and its apparent in every scene. For a first film, it could have been much worse, as even the first twenty or so minutes could have been botched, too, but in the long run, 'The Inheritance' didn't fit the bill for me, and won't for anyone seeking a good black horror film.
Image's 2.35:1 framed 1080p picture, using the AVC MPEG-4 encode, is very hit and miss.
The title sequence alone gives this away, as you get some astonishingly sharp, detailed shots, then random softness (with artifacts to boot!), and as the film rolls on, softness becomes more and more apparent and frequent. Grain goes from zero to two hundred on a one hundred point scale, and constantly bounces around, as the picture has far too much change to keep track of. When the same camera, at the same angle, in the same car with the same cast can go from clean and deep to powerfully grained and fairly two dimensional, something just isn't right. Grain also can freeze at times, which was rather annoying. When the picture is super sharp, depth is astounding. Sadly, this is not all that frequent. The artifacts return as the film rolls on, but they're not major, while chroma fringing and some slight noise also can pop up here and there. The random heat, affecting skin tones and colors dramatically, as well as random picture quality make this an iffy looking release.
When this transfer is "on," it's great! It just isn't "on" all that often.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix for 'The Inheritance' is the only audio track found on the disc. It's also the disc's highlight.
Dialogue is clear for the most part, although dynamics seem off at times. Range is fairly wide, with some good low end activity, while bass levels thump with the music, and hit hard in the film a few times. The rears give off plenty of ambient effect, to give the film a nice full room presence. Better still, localization effects are not used sparingly, so there's plenty to keep an ear out for...even if sometimes it seems a bit forced.
The lone extra is the Theatrical Trailer for the film, in standard definition. The packaging of this release does not indicate it is present, though, much in line with the other barebone Image Entertainment releases. Hardly something to complain about, though!
I would have loved to have had 'Inheritance' on Blu-ray instead of 'The Inheritance', as a documentary featuring the daughter of Nazi war criminal Amon Goeth sounds mighty interesting. Instead, sadly, we have a subpar horror feature that is less scary than some of Tyler Perry's films. The Image Entertainment Blu-ray of the film has questionable video, good audio, and one extra that isn't advertised on the package. Unfortunately, this is quite easily skipped.