The latest entry into the recent generational familial horror film cycle is the U.K. chiller The Heiress, directed by Chris Bell. It is a supernatural outing that grounds itself well in the real world and that features a solid ensemble cast led by Candis Nergaard as a woman haunted by evil and misunderstood by those closest to her.
Claire (Nergaard) has been recently given to seeing things in the house that she shares with her sister Anna (Jayne Wisener) after the death of their grandmother. Things get so bad that their mother (Denise Stephenson) wants her to seek religious counsel and their father (Mark Arden) wants her to go to a psychiatrist. Claire is put away in a psychiatric facility, but whatever it is that is haunting her gets even more malevolent — and far more dangerous — when she is away from her home.
Bell, working from a screenplay that he cowrote with Danny Prescott, Kelly Prescott, and Jezz Vernon, paces the proceedings effectively, balancing the family drama and the fright-fare elements impressively. The characters are well-written and the dialogue between the embattled family strikes realistic notes, making Claire’s plight and how it affects those around her more intriguing, and investing viewers solidly so that the horror set pieces are all the more effective.
Bell is aided by a solid cast. Nergaard stands out as Claire, investing her character with the proper amounts of confusion, weakness, and strength. Wisener is also great as the younger sister who tries her best to relate to Claire’s mental and physical troubles, but who, like the others around Claire, wishes she would just snap out of it. Along with Stephenson and Arden, supporting cast members David Schaal as the priest, Johnny Phillips as the psychiatrist, and David Wayman as Anna’s boyfriend all give strong performances.
The house setting of The Heiress is in a typical modern home rather than in a creaky abode of the classic old-house variety, giving it a more immediate and relatable urgency. Bell fills the house with just as much dread as viewers expect from the latter style of home.
Bell has crafted a gripping supernatural horror film that eschews the typical final girl main character in favor of a troubled but strong woman who struggles for independence from both otherworldly evil and familial pressures. The Heiress is unique, quality independent horror fare that offers plenty of dramatic heft to complement its more thrilling elements.
The Heiress is available to download and rent in the U.K. from March 15, 2021 courtesy of the Movie Partnership, in association with Old Way Film & Television. The film receives its U.S. and Canadian release on Tuesday March 16, 2021 courtesy of 4Digital Media.
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