'The Inheritance' Brings Diversity to Horror Genre10 Mar, 2011 By: Ashley Ratcliff
As diverse as storylines come in horror films, the actors who star in those pictures oftentimes are not.
Producer Effie T. Brown, however, has set out to improve that trend with The Inheritance, written and directed by Robert O’Hara and featuring a predominantly black cast. Image Entertainment, in association with One Village Entertainment, will release The Inheritance on Blu-ray Disc and DVD April 12 (prebook March 15) at $29.97 and $27.97, respectively.
Screened at numerous festivals in 2010, The Inheritance has won several awards, including the American Black Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize for Best Actor (Golden Brooks) and the Official Selection at the Urbanworld Film Festival, the International Black Film Festival, the Pan African Film Festival and the Twin Cities Black International Film Festival.
“I think it’s been embraced because [the critics] haven’t seen anything like it,” Brown said. “We’re not saying we’re the first black horror film because we’re just not (see Bones, Blacula). But I do feel they haven’t seen a horror-thriller that deals with history and has strong acting. … I think the critics [thought], ‘Interesting.’”
The film stars veteran actors Keith David (Requiem for a Dream, Death at a Funeral), Adriane Lenox (The Blind Side) and Novella Nelson (It’s Kind of a Funny Story), as well as familiar faces such as Brooks (“Girlfriends”), DB Woodside (“24”), Darrin Dewitt Henson (Stomp the Yard), Rochelle Aytes (Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion), Shawn Michael Howard (Cable Guy) and Lanre Idewu (Irene in Time).
While African-American actors are a presence in Hollywood, Brown said it was time to shift the paradigm, with respect to horror.
"Let’s stop complaining about it, and let’s be about it. … Why can’t we — meaning people of color — do a genre movie?” she asked. “We’ve broken the barrier with comedy but not so much with sci-fi, horror and action. Hopefully this will cross over. With our rich history and cultural background, we can put a different spin on an old genre."
The Inheritance presents a distinct premise with a deeper educational value, Brown said, in that it adds a historical element with slavery. As the film opens, the viewer is confronted with a grisly image of lynched men hanging lifelessly from a tree. One of them awakens and frees himself as a slave family watches in dismay. That man is Chakabazz (Idewu) — the villain — who offers the slaves freedom and prosperity, if only they sacrifice to him their best and brightest children.
“When you think about it, it’s not such a bad deal. … Everybody has the greater good at heart: Your family will always be together,” Brown said. “Your family will never want for nothing. Your family will have money and be educated. You just have to do this one thing every so often.”
The tradition was carried from generation to generation among five families. These five cousins meet up at their Uncle Melvin’s (David) estate for a secret family reunion, where each plans to gain a monetary inheritance. The story intensifies as the elders select their “chosen” to sacrifice, leaving the cousins with a life-or-death decision: stay and accept the sacrifice, or leave and destroy their livelihood. Bloodshed is inevitable.
“Every avenue is shut down for those five,” Brown said. “They’re in the middle of nowhere. It’s cold. They have no car. They didn’t tell anybody where they were out of their own greed. … What a great premise: black folks in the snow for a family reunion, and the family has to make good on a pact.”
Brown said she aims to create “The Inheritance” film series, which would serve as a training ground for up-and-coming directors of color to advance the intricate plot.
“[The Inheritance] left a lot of things that, hopefully, people would question. … There’s a method to the madness,” Brown said. “We introduced Chakabazz, and we want to find out more about him. Is Chakabazz bad? That’s where the sequel and the franchise go. We wanted to leave enough [open] so that we would have places to go and storylines explore. … We’ve created a world where everything is tied up. You just have to see how it’s tied up. Hopefully we gave you enough of a hook to where you want to take that journey with us.”
The filmmakers currently are taking into consideration input as to which storylines they’d like to see explored in sequels. Join the discussion at www.theinheritancemovie.com and on Facebook.