Publicity Stills of "The Heirloom"
(Courtesy from Festive Films)

In Mandarin with English & Chinese Subtitles
Director: Leste Chen
Starring: Terri Kwan, Jason Chang, Chang Yu Cheng, Tender Huang
RunTime: 1 hr 37 mins
Released By: Shaw & Festive Films
Rating: PG (Some disturbing scenes)
Official Website: http://www.heirloom-movie.com

Opening Day: 12 January 2006


Twenty years ago, an inexplicable mass suicide occurred in the millionaire Yang household, where the entire clan hanged to their deaths at the exact same hour, place, and height. Only one member survived. To this day, the case remains unsolved.

Twenty years later, distant relative James inherits the Yang MANSION, moving in with his girlfriend Yo, a dancer who aspires to study in the U.S. To celebrate the engagement, they invite their friends –Yi-Chen and Ah-Tseng – to their new home and stay the night.

As supernatural events begin to take place, James and Yo discover the eccentricities of the house including a mysterious fourth floor. Delving deep into the Yang family history, James and Yo find out that the Yang fortune was built with the aid of “child ghosts”, dead babies fed on blood and refused the opportunity to reincarnate. Raising child ghosts may bring great fortune, but at the same time great doom.

From here on, James and Yo will unearth more secrets about the Yang family - and even about James himself - while they must confront the evil dwelling on the fourth floor.

Movie Review:

“The Heirloom ” started off with a short explanation of the well-known supernatural tradition of keeping a child ghost which has been rumored that that some Asians practice. Then it veered off into the formulaic Hollywood Horror setting where the lead character, James, (Jason Chang) inherits a spooky house and the eerie happenings start to occur around him, his girlfriend, Yo (Terri Kwan), friends and people who comes in contact with the spooky house.

The way this movie is advertised and how the movie started with the explanation of ghost child would inevitable raise the expectations of child ghosts haunting in this movie. But if you do go in with such expectations, it is likely that you will be disappointed as there isn’t many apparitions or any interesting explanations that goes into depth about the child ghost. Instead this movie is laced with the tragedy of traditional family practices and the elements of child ghosts are pretty much the secondary devices to keep the movie going.

Perhaps “The Heirloom” should take a clue from Kevin Tong’s “The Maid” since it is touted as a horror movie. Given that “The Maid” is not the best representative of the horror genre but it is able, at least, to conjure the atmospheric feel of horror and contains effective scares –a-minute tactic that makes you dread that but you have to stay on to watch the movie, which are all seriously lacking in “The Heirloom” If only the Heirloom had lingered a bit longer in certain scenes to raise the suspense or used effective soundtracks to build up the climatic scares, then it would at least pass my minimal scare factors for a horror movie.

The structure of the movie and the editing also makes it harder to sympathize with the victims in this movie. There is very little characterization of those victims and it made their deaths almost meaningless and impactless. Most of the strange occurrences and deaths happen in an illogical manner, even for a horror movie. The impact of the scariness was even reduced by the lack of gore or gruesome scenes.

Between the two leads, Terri Kwan, who was nominated for Golden Horse Best Supporting Actress Award for her performance in “Turn Left Turn Right” definitely had the more engaging performance over her co-star. A good choice that Terri Kwan carried the bulk of the movie as James Chang’s performance came across rather unnatural and forced, specially in his delivery of dialogue which sounded like Mandarin with Cantonese accent instead of the American accent since his character was supposed to have been abroad for almost twenty years.

This is the first time for young director Leste Chen in directing a full-length motion picture and a brave effort for him to try on horror films when Taiwan is country that has very few horror movies to call its own. His intentions to merge his experience with traditional families with ghosts have it’s potential but the misadventure ended up quite misdirected.

For a country that has very few in their domestic commercial film exports, it is good news that it seems that the Taiwan movie industry might be seeing some form of revival. This movie also opens second in Taiwan Box Office and it’s interesting to see how it will fare in our local market.

Movie Rating:

("The Heirloom lacks of any intense scare factors found in most horror movies”)

Review by Richard Lim Jr

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