The Heirloom
(SHAI BIAN) 2005
Director: Leste Chen
(Cheng-Tao Chen)

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

The Heirloom What one learns in the first half-minute of The Heirloom (Shai bian, 2005), a scene of multiple suicides by hanging, is that Taiwanese people have ugly-ass big feet. We can delight in the sound of ominous music & artfully shlocky photography of dangly tootsies.

It's the tale of an evil fetus kept in a jar & fed its master's blood, which the film presents as an actual Chinese folk practice amounting to worship of the fetus. And it might be so, as the same premise is used in the rubbishy Thai film Art of the Devil (Khon len kyong, 2004).

The tale takes place in an English-style mansion which a young man, James (Jason Chang/Ta-yong Chang) is unconvincingly alleged to have been raised in. He has returned to Taiwan to claim the house as his inheritance. Then we sit through the beautiful female lead's absolutely awful dance recital.

Five minutes into the film & I'm ready to take a nap. Will it get better? Not likely. The primary "horror image" is that of the supernatural hanging, plus a garroting as happened to one victim in a bath. The mystery unfolds with inessential complications that ruin pacing. Characters, & especially the heroine Yo (Terri Kwan), are poorly deliniated bland figures.

The HeirloomIt takes forever & ever, but eventually it settles down to the cliche dynamics of James not believing the house is haunted, while his girlfriend Yo is certain that it is.

She investigates the house's history on her own, & for a long time must face the unknown without support, until eventually James wises up.

That old tradition of fetus-worship & the ghostly fetus-magic has gone all awry, as if it could've gone any other way, so that it brings about death & doom. It took a heavy toll on the family previoiusly, & anyone else who entered the house.

The elaborations for this premise are tiresome & exist to stretch out a very small tale to feature length. The film feels interminable, but in fact is only about an hour & a quarter.

A viewer of lots of trash cinema will be used to the poor quality, sticking it out to the end, hoping for the chance to see the ghost-fetus in action. Well, don't hold your breath.

In the attic are several jars of ashes, each with an image emblazoned on the front, gigglingly reminiscent of Betty Boop. One jar under floorboards contains the fetus. It's a cheap artless prop, about as spooky looking as a toyshop rubber toad.

Interest almost piques when they give the fetus-jar to a Buddhist temple to care for & keep the evil at bay. But then nothing interesting happens after all.

Moody photography in the rain is drummed up for a climactic "sad" attempted murder. This bit is well done as a stand-alone set-piece, but doesn't save the film because it does not feel like part of a whole story, certainly not part of a story that had any merit.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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