A wildly uneven spooker about three young cousins menaced by evil spirits on the family estate, “The Inheritance” reps a step forward for Filipino horror. This first Philippines-Canada co-production benefits considerably from Canuck technical expertise, which is used to relate an imaginative tale steeped in Filipino folklore. Given the ongoing interest in Eastern genre offerings, this predominantly English language pic looks to have a decent future on ancillary and should reap solid B.O. on Philippines release Nov. 23.
Pic opens with helpful text information about spirits and demons who’ll be popping up later, as Canadian residents Johnny De Jesus (Darrel Gamotin) and his sensible sister Anna (Nadine Villasin) learn of their Lolo’s (grandmother’s) death and embark on a trip to Manila to claim their share of the matriarch’s fortune.
Much to the displeasure of the family elders, Lolo has left her rambling estate to Johnny, Anna and their cousin Vanessa (Phoemela Baranda), a sexy socialite who likes to invite friends over for pot smoking and sidle closer to Johnny than she ought to.
Johnny, however, is having sepia-toned flashbacks, ghost stories told by his Lolo and the legend of a “devil girl” born out of wedlock and hidden from family sight. A carefully orchestrated atmosphere of unease is embellished by long serving estate workers who know more than they’re saying and wild card Tommy (Nicco Lorenzo Garcia), a mentally retarded orphan raised on the property.
Although there’s no shortage of workable elements, once pic gets beyond the halfway mark, and its collection of colorful creatures comes out to play, the story becomes overloaded with too many contrivances and the visual treatment suffers from a lack of discipline.
Adept at springing effective scares with controlled compositions in the earlier passages, helmer Romeo Candido and lenser Odyssey Flores switch largely to chaotic hand-held camera shots later on that are often poorly framed.
Thesping by predominantly Canada-based actors is adequate, with prominent local model Baranda adding spark as the good-time girl. Polished tech package is a major surprise. The first Filipino film to be color-graded via the digital intermediate process, pic looks very good on a modest budget. Gerard Salonga’s lush orchestral score and top class sound design by Scott Purdy are further feathers in pic’s cap.