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HEIRLOOM, THE (Zhaibian) (director: Leste Chen; screenwriter: Dorian Li; cinematographer: Pung-Leung Kwan; editor: Ju-kuan Hsiao; music: Jeffrey Cheng; cast: Terri Kwan (Yo), Jason Chang (James), Yu-chen Chang (Yi-Chen), Tender Huang (Ah-Tseng); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Michelle Yeh; Tartan Video; 2005-Taiwan-in Mandarin with English subtitles)
“It only offers the Asian horror fan some slick art-house stylish visuals.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This plodding, derivative modern-day psychological thriller is directed in his debut by Leste Chen (former director of musical videos for Joey Yung and Eason Chan, which should give you a clue as to why the film was so blah) and written by Dorian Li. The Chinese horror picture concerns a possessed mansion with an evil past. It’s not that the film is so bad, which it is, but it’s something you don’t have to see because you won’t be missing anything. It only offers the Asian horror fan some slick art-house stylish visuals and a few cheap thrills uninterestedly derived from the usual tricks of the horror film-making trade; it’s the kind of film that makes the poorly received The Amityville Horror look so much better in comparison and is not in the same ballpark as The Old Dark House of 1932.

The twentysomething architect James Yang (Jason Chang), after being educated abroad in England, returns to Taipei (shot in Hong Kong) to claim a seventy year old mansion he inherited from his unknown distant millionaire relatives. He moves in with Yo (Terri Kwan), his dancer fiancée, and the two get excited about decorating the spacious freaky looking mansion that’s located in isolation just outside of Taipei. As expected the usual Strange Occurrences begin to take place, such as fresh blood drippings, the rattling of ghosts and the couple’s best friends, Ah-Tseng (Tender Huang) and Yi-Chen (Yu-chen Chang), strangely fall asleep at their home but can’t recall ‘why and how’ they wake up in the Yang residence (I’d also like to hear that one explained again!). When Yang’s male friend meets a highly unusual death related to the house, Yo shows she’s no dumb broad and investigates the history of the house by checking the historical files. Yo learns through newspaper clippings of a mass family suicide by hanging that took place at the house twenty years ago, and soon learns the house has been cursed with supernatural beings because the family practiced some eerie dead baby rituals there. She will also meet the only relative who escaped the mass killings and is now in an asylum, willing to tell all the secrets. James still insists they live there until his new job becomes permanent (which just might be a subtle slur on getting an English education!). They stay despite feeling the presence of supernatural forces living behind the walls and underneath the floorboards. All James can do is turn inward and confront these monsters before in their fury they tear James up limb from limb (normally I abhor violence, but in this case if James met such a fate I can’t say I would really care).

It tried to be both a drama and horror story, but neither story came together with any great effect or purpose or originality. I’m no fan of the J-horror film and this film didn’t move me any closer to being a fan.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”