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<strong>The Inheritance</strong> (Robert O'Hara, 2011)
Because I have seen so few 2011 releases so far, I haven't even thought about coming up with a Best Movies of 2011 list. However, I can tell you that when I have seen enough to compile a Worst Movies of 2011 list, there's every chance that <em>The Inheritance</em>, a terminally stupid attempt at a supernatural slasher film, will be on it.
Plot: five siblings--Lily (<em>Madea's Family Reunion</em>'s Michelle Aytes), Karen (<em>Beauty Shop</em>'s Golden Brooks), Tyrone (<em>Stomp the Yard</em>'s Darren Dewitt Henson), Simpson (<em>Men of Honor</em>'s Shawn Michael Howard), and Henry (<em>Romeo Must Die</em>'s D. B. Woodside), along with Simpson's boss and his wife (Edward Nattenberg in his first feature appearance and <em>Prelude</em>'s Jenny Weaver)--are on their way to a family house in the middle of nowhere (what part of nowhere isn't mentioned, but it's snowing, so doubtful it's in the Deep South. This becomes important). When they get there, the rest of the family hasn't arrived yet, but there's a note attached to a large box of liquor sitting on the bar in the great room from Uncle Melvin (<em>The Thing</em>'s Keith David) telling them to enjoy themselves till the rest of the cast shows up. You can imagine what the next fifteen-ish minutes of this less-than-ninety-minute movie entails. In any case, eventually the older generation shows up, and that's when things get creepy, or are supposed to, anyway. You see, the family has a generations-old blood pact with a spirit named Chakabazz (<em>Girl Play</em>'s Lanre Idewu), and in order for that pact to stay in place, they have to sacrifice a virgin. And despite her "I'm a lesbian, not a virgin!" protests, as far as the family is concerned, Lily fits the bill...
It's not a bad concept, and lord knows it's been done well a number of times over the years. But O'Hara, both writing and directing for the first time, didn't do anything to bring originality to the table other than saying "what if I do this with a mostly-black cast?". While the cultural differences between the melanin- and non-melanin-challenged in America may be sufficient to turn comedies or dramas into high-grossing niche-market fare--just ask Tyler Perry--it is a well-known fact since at least the days of Mantan Moreland that it doesn't work in the horror genre. Or, perhaps, not well known enough, at least not to Robert O'Hara. Why this is could fill an essay, or even a book of same. I think partly it has to do with the fact that horror films have been more culturally-integrated over the years than more mainstream fare (after all, Mantan Moreland was acting in widely-released horror films decades before Sidney Poitier would do the same in mainstream dramas, even if Moreland was usually there for comic relief), but it also has to do with the fact that the horror genre is already much more shot-through with cliché. You tack on a few stereotypes, and the horror junkie is going to give you the I've-seen-it-all-before yawn. Not that O'Hara limits such to his characters' African-American-ness ("I can't reasonably posit that a beautiful, successful twentysomething could possibly be a virgin... I know, I'll make her a lesbian!").
For what it's worth, I wish I'd liked this movie a whole lot more than I did. You have a passel of engaging actors (Keith David has been overshadowed by James Earl Jones and Sam Jackson as far as The Voice goes, but just listen to this guy's voice-overs during the flashback scenes!) doing what they do best, but they were given a bog-standard script to work with, and O'Hara, to quote Clive Barker, doesn't know a camera lens from a plate of spaghetti. I'm not generally a fan of the Hollywood horror-remake craze, but I'd love to see someone redo this project with a much better put-together script; I think there was a lot of potential here, but O'Hara resisted it at every turn. * ½