Written and directed by Robert O'Hara, The Inheritance follows five cousins - Karen (Golden Brooks), Henry (D.B. Woodside), Tyrone (Darrin Dewitt Henson), Lily (Rochelle Aytes), and Simpson (Shawn Michael Howard) - who head up to a remote house out in the boonies to meet with the elders of their family for a reunion. We quickly learn that all five of these cousins are descended from a group of slaves and since that happened, there have been some strong family ties keeping them together. Things start to get odd almost as soon as they show up. It turns out that Uncle Melvin (Keith David) has left a box full of booze and weed for them to partake of, which they do with gusto. After the party, the white couple were kind enough to drive Simpson up, head upstairs to their bedroom for some alone time where we see some strange people in odd tribal outfits wreak havoc with them.
When the five cousins wake up after the party, they realize it's 6pm in the evening and that they've slept the entire day. Not only that, but the elders have arrived and Uncle Melvin is keen on getting everyone together downstairs for dinner as soon as possible. Dinner progresses and things become even more unusual as Melvin explains to them how their ancestors were freed by a witch doctor named Chakabazz (Lanre Idewu) back in the 1800s and how to this day they honor him the same way Abraham honored God - by sacrificing their first children. Obviously the five cousins are none too pleased with this idea, but Melvin and the elders are insistent. Soon enough, the five are working together to try and escape with their lives, but something has happened to Lily, who had a very graphic 'dream' while in the bathtub.
While The Inheritance takes a bit of time to get past its talky first half hour, once the story starts moving this turns out to be a pretty interesting horror movie/thriller. O'Hara gets some points for originality by blending in elements of slavery and African tribal rituals into the story, as that's something that hasn't been done to death in the genre, and he should also get credit for writing some interesting and believable characters. There are a few missteps as far as the performances go, as a couple of the cast members do tend to overdo it just a little bit here and there, but O'Hara generally gets pretty good results from the people he has worked with here.
As far as the more horrific aspects go, some ineffective digital effects used early one during the drug use scene stick out like a sore thumb and don't help the movie much. Seeing the antagonists running around the remote home in tribal outfits is a bit jarring at first but does start to get a little creepy as the plot picks up. There isn't a load of gore here and the film wisely relies more on psychological tricks than effects work to pull you in - though the end result is hardly terrifying. Interesting, suspenseful and weird, yes, very definitely, but not particularly scary per se.
The last twenty minutes or so of the film are handled quite well. Since O'Hara takes the time to build the characters up and to let us get to know them a bit, their plight becomes more interesting to us and so when it all hits they fan and they're fighting for their lives, we can't help but want to pay attention to see how it pays off. The ending is appropriate and fits the tone of the movie well and a few effective moments of realistic humor fit in nicely as well.
The Inheritance looks nice enough in this AVC encoded 1080p 1.78.1 widescreen transfer from Image Entertainment. The opening sequence has been color adjusted to give the picture an older, washed out look but once you get past that and into the movie proper detail improves accordingly. Texture is strong throughout and aside from that opening, color reproduction looks nice and natural, as do skin tones. There aren't any compression artifacts or edge enhancement problems and overall we have a strong, well authored image taken from some nice looking source material. It may not offer the same level of detail and strength as a big time blockbuster will, but for an indy effort, the movie looks great.
The only audio option on the disc is a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in English. No alternate language dubs are supplied though subtitles are provided in English and Spanish. This is a fairly aggressive mix and quite a bit louder than most seem to be (you'll want to adjust your receiver's volume accordingly) but it's also fairly effective. Some good directional effects are used throughout the movie to help build suspense while dialogue remains clean and clear. There's a good rumble to the low end, you'll notice this when the snowmobile starts up in one scene, and the score has some welcome resonance to it.
Aside from some static menus and chapter selection, the only extra on this disc is the film's trailer, presented in HD. A commentary would have been nice, if only to shed some light on the genesis of this film, but that didn't happen.
The Inheritance benefits from some interesting ideas and a few quirky twists and those help it overcome a few questionable performances and plot holes. If it's not something you're going to return to and watch over and over again, those looking for a horror movie a bit off the beaten path will want to give it a shot, however. Image's Blu-ray release looks and sounds fairly decent though it's disappointingly light on extras. Rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.