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Dances With Films Review: A dream house becomes a surrealist nightmare in “INHERITANCE”

Saturday, August 26, 2017 | Review

Starring Chase Joliet, Sara Montez, Tim Abell
Written and directed by Tyler Savage
Portola Pictures

“For any given species in any given situation, there will be an optimal flight distance, somewhere between too risky or foolhardy at the short end, and too flighty or risk-averse at the long end,” famed evolutionary biologist and provocateur Richard Dawkins writes in THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH: THE EVIDENCE FOR EVOLUTION. And the search for that essential balance, such scholars tell us, never really ends; it merely shifts according to the context of our surroundings.

That theory proves a useful prism through which to view writer/director Tyler Savage’s affecting and disquieting debut feature-length psychothriller INHERITANCE, making its world premiere tonight at Hollywood’s Dances With Films festival. It’s the story of a man who, by unforeseen circumstance, finds his ability to estimate the “optimal flight distance” severely distorted as his material needs and wants collide with an elemental desire to unveil his own hitherto buried ancestral origins—even amidst the menacing aggression and perverse seductions of supernatural interlopers.

As the film opens, the construction-site toiling of Ryan Bowman (Chase Joliet) is interrupted by the arrival of a man he at first (reasonably) presumes to be a collection-agency emissary. In fact, the suit is a lawyer come to tell him the biological father he’d never known recently passed away and left him a home on the California coast worth millions. This reversal of fortune should feel like a miracle to a working-class guy with a pregnant fiancée and a hardscrabble lifestyle.

Ryan and Isi (Sara Montez) barely have time to check out the breathtaking back-window view of the newly acquired abode, however, before strange individuals and entities, corporeal and otherworldly, begin crawling out of the woodwork. Soon Ryan discovers it might be he who is haunted rather than the house: A seriously sinister family history not only challenges his grip on reality and forces him to ponder whether the sins of the father truly are visited upon the son, but along the way also leaves both Isi and the audience fairly begging him to listen to his Neanderthal brain and take flight before the compounding risks cost him everything.

Gorgeously shot by cinematographer Drew Daniels (IT COMES AT NIGHT) with a tonal palette that heightens this duality, and anchored by finely nuanced and naturalistic performances by Joliet and Montez, INHERITANCE showcases Savage’s ability to build suspense and conjure up unforgettable imagery. Indeed, the movie’s last 20 minutes are a deftly woven, completely beguiling amalgamation of surrealist nightmare and pure state-of-nature human dread.

To one degree or another, most of us spend a good deal of our lives hoping for that one serendipitous, game-changing moment or event to come along and somehow instantly make our problems inconsequential. INHERITANCE gives us a 92-minute case study in being careful what one wishes for.

Watch the teaser!