Movie Review - Inheritance (2017) - Dances With Films Festival

Writer-director Tyler Savage is clearly a protegé of Terrence Malick. There is in fact a shot in this movie that is almost an exact copy or mirror to a shot in Malick's To the Wonder. Savage is able to make a beach in southern California look like the tidal land surrounding the Mont Saint-Michel captured in the opening ten minutes of that 2013 Malick film. Savage's camera doesn't float about its subjects as Malick's does. Savage is more steady or still. He's a lot more measured. He has no need for voice-over. There's also a spirituality that leans more toward faith and love in the Christian sense that Savage's feature-debut lacks. Malick's eye always looks to what's beyond, whereas here Savage looks to what's left behind and what's passed down, specifically from a parent to a child.

Savage is of course not Malick's first protegé, but he is the first to direct a film in a genre that Malick perhaps never would. Savage's film is ostensibly a horror. Some might argue that it's technically a psychological thriller, as the actual horror is kept to a bare minimum and the bulk of the narrative focuses on wondering about the mind of its protagonist, what he's thinking and what he's feeling.

Chase Joliet (Krisha) stars as Ryan Bowman, a construction worker who is told that his biological father has died and he gets ownership of his late dad's house by the ocean. Ryan decides to take his pregnant fiancé, Isi, played by Sara Montez, and move into the house. The movie follows the couple for possibly a few weeks as the pair decides whether they're going to keep or sell the home.

At first, and for large chunks of this movie, it's never clear in what direction Savage is taking it. It's never sure if it's going to become a haunted house movie like The Amityville Horror or if it's going to be a home invasion movie like Cape Fear. It's not until late in the game, really the last twenty minutes or so that Savage shows his hand. When he does, Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is the film that came to mind, though that might be too misleading.

As unlikely as it is however, Savage's movie is more enigmatic and elusive than Kubrick's classic. Yet, the way in which it is so is through an oft-frustrating tactic. Savage makes his protagonist a veritable mute. Ryan is the strong, silent type. Joliet has little dialogue and with no voice-over and the camera lingering on his backside or constantly casting him in shadow, Ryan remains a difficult character to grasp.

There's some indication that this movie might be in line with recent horror films like The Babadook or Under the Shadow where scary manifestations are simply metaphors for human fears and anxieties over things such as parenthood or health, or in the case of Savage's film, heredity. Savage renders those anxieties very subtly. They're almost vague where the problem here would seem to be Ryan is afraid of becoming like his father, but never with any clarity does the movie nail down who his father was or what his father actually did. There are hints and flashes for sure, and that's where Savage seems to work best.

Surprisingly, the best scene is at a dinner table where emotions are boldly laid out. Joliet is actually given lines and he proves effective thus so. Ryan faces off with his sister. There is no murder or mayhem, no ghosts or apparitions lurking in the background, but it winds up being the most thrilling scene in the narrative.

The rest of the movie is just a creeping dread. It's a waiting game, a game where something feels like it's coming, and when it does, it's quickly brushed over. Yet, Savage effectively keeps you on edge the whole time with effectively eerie images. For example, instead of a black cat, Savage unnerves with a black dog staring at the camera before strutting across the screen.

Not Rated but contains sexual situations and some violence.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 32 mins.

World Premiere at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres.
20th Dances With Films Festival.
Friday, June 2nd at 9:30PM.

For more information, go to the film's website.


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