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Mike’s Strange Cinema Cavalcade - INHERITANCE

inheritance review
A young District Attorney receives a surprising gift in her father's will.

Review by Mike Vaughn

Directed by: Vaughn Stein

Starring: Lily Collins, Simon Pegg, Connie Nielsen, Chace Crawford, Patrick Warburton

inheritance poster

The head of a wealthy and powerful family dies, leaving behind him a web of resentment for daughter and DA Lauren Monroe (Lily Collins). She is seemingly left out of her father's will, but given a mysterious inheritance in the form of a man (Simon Pegg) kept caged below the ground. Dark family secrets come to light as Lauren must decide what to do.

Credit where credit is due, Vaughn Stein’s thriller has an interesting hook. And it worked, as I chose this screener based on its core premise and solid leads. But, sadly, its many subplots get in the way of its own story.

inheritance review

The film starts off well enough, establishing its characters while also building an engaging narrative. Who is this man? Why is he down here? Where is Stein taking us as the audience? I was engaged for the first 15-20 minutes, but this is where the cracks in Matthew Kennedy’s screenplay and Stein’s lack of central vision begin to show. Right away I had an issue with how the character of Lauren is written. She comes off so unbelievably hostile towards Pegg’s character that it’s almost laughable. This might be forgivable but the film goes out of its way to paint Lauren as this squeaky-clean idealistic DA who wants to help her fellow man. When presented with an actual man who is battered, abused and held prisoner, the very first thing she does is yell at him, even making threats. Speaking of which, I hope you enjoy her yelling, screaming and whining, cause that’s most of her ‘arc’. The film tries to sort of justify her behaviour but I was never sold on it. Lauren is painfully one-sour-note, and I felt sorry that Collins is never given any depth to her character. Let me be clear though, I don’t think it's Collins' fault; in fact she and Pegg, to a certain extent, are the main positive things the film has going for it.

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Probably the biggest thing wrong with this film are the needless subplots. From the very first minutes of the film, Vaughn and Kennedy establish this important trial, which is going to put away Wall Street bankers. It leans in on this plotline hard and even features some court scenes (albeit very brief ones). Does this plot go anywhere or have any bearing on the plot concerning Pegg or why he’s imprisoned? Nope. How about the scandalous lightning rod of a brother and his political re-election? That also goes nowhere. The film only uses this subplot to highlight that the brother is just as dirty as the father, but it never ties into the main thrust of the story. It’s frustrating because dear readers, the root of the premise is a cool one, but it never seems satisfied with just being a sleek and lean psychological thriller. Also, I kid you not when I say a key lime pie recipe is recited like four or five times. Why? Who knows?

inheritance review

Spoiler Warning…

The ending reveals that Pegg’s character is in fact a psychopath whom the father had locked down there as a twisted form of punishment. I had frankly guessed this from the trailer but my biggest issue aside from being painfully predictable, is the pay-off. The “twist” feels weak because there are no hints or clues to give it a powerful impact. Take The Sixth Sense (1999) for example. The sprinkling of clues throughout makes the pay-off memorable and oh so satisfying. Now, imagine not having any of those hints to the audience and what you get is a twist that feels dropped in your lap. The closest thing Inheritance does in this department is a wildly misleading flashback, which is actually just a cheat to the audience. This smacks of lazy writing.

[ READ MORE: New Release Review - Open 24 Hours ]

Towards the end, Pegg’s understated acting goes out the window and he goes full supervillain. It's borderline hard to watch. I always try to say something nice, so here it goes: First and foremost, Collins gives a solid performance that you could say is way better than the film deserves. Chace Crawford, best known for playing The Deep in The Boys, is also great, but woefully wasted. Pegg (who is also in The Boys) gives a decent performance until he goes full ham. The film is incredibly well shot, which gives it a level of dread and atmosphere. It’s also well edited and has a decent score.

inheritance review

Films like Inheritance are incredibly frustrating because they take a simple and interesting premise and bog it down in tepid drama and groan inducing clichés. And, as I said, the film is solid from a technical angle and I get a sense the director knows how to put a film together. At nearly two hours, the film feels bloated and unfocussed, and I had a hard time liking the main character. But, now I know where to go for a good key lime recipe.

Inheritance is on DVD/Digital now.

Michael Vaughn is a rabid horror and cult fan who turned that love into a career. He is a writer, blogger and film historian and now author of 'The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema' which Shock Wave Podcast named their pick of the month, and Chris Alexander of Fangoria called “recommended reading.”

His other credits include Scream Magazine, Fangoria and websites like Films in Review and Bloody Flicks(UK). Please follow his Twitter @StrangeCinema65 and Instagram @gorehound_mike.