Youtube Film Club – Dark Heritage (1989)

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Our Youtube Film Club reviews are a bit more spoiler-heavy than our other ones, so we recommend you watch the film before reading on. It’s worth it!

Cult film websites tend to either try and go respectable and get interviews with big stars, or go for the gutter with reviewing the worst films they can find. We’ve already gone about as far down into the gutter as we can manage (ONE MORE TIME, which is barely above the level of a poor home movie), but I don’t think this review will be propelling us into the big time either.

The opening scene caused some debate – are the couple on holiday, or is that crappy looking caravan their home? To be honest, either could be true, as although it’s supposed to be a holiday, they’re in the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere, with no evidence of a car nearby to move the caravan when it’s time for the holiday to end. Anyway, they get offed, along with a remarkably large number of other people (information given to us in an on-screen news report), which takes us to the meat and drink of the film, where a newspaper editor sends his best man, Clint, out to get to the bottom of all those murders.

I don’t like to rag on the technical shortcomings of low-budget films, but there’s a couple in this scene that stick out like a sore thumb. One carries on all the way through the film – please, people, spend a few quid on some lights because every scene that’s not in daylight looks murky at best; and the other is eyelines. It’s one of those things you only notice when it gets messed up, that when two people are having a conversation their eyes either need to be on the same level, or angled so they appear to be looking at each other. The editor appears to be staring over the top of Clint’s head, then when they fix it so he’s looking at the chair, Clint’s already stood up so he’s now staring at his crotch.

Clint and his two buddies, who work for the paper I suppose, go off to the site of the killings, and stay for the night at the large derelict mansion nearby. One of them gets spooked by a loud noise (seriously) so they set up a camera to record all goings-on and take shifts to guard each other. Clint wakes up in the morning to find his two friends have vanished and everyone thinks he murdered them. No evidence is found that they were ever in the house, although Clint (for some reason) chooses not to share the videotape he has, which shows the beefier of his two friends getting knocked to the ground and dragged off by persons unknown, with a comical expression of fright on his face. The film really likes his expression, because they play it over and over again, too.

This all feels odd, as the film has spent too much time on the group to then kill two of them off, off-screen no less. Anyway, after being given three weeks paid leave to recover from the stress (wow, this really was some golden age of journalism, they’d have just sacked him and replaced him with press releases nowadays), he goes off to research the mansion and makes a couple of other male friends, both of whom are also interested in the house.

The Martense family lived there, and tragedy continued to strike them until the house was apparently abandoned over a century ago. Clint and his two new friends decide to go and investigate further, and while exploring the surrounding woodland come across the caravan from the beginning of the film, which they explain to us the police just didn’t get round to towing away yet. In case this made you scratch your head a bit, in the original story this is actually a cabin, and presumably the filmmakers just couldn’t afford to build one or find one in similar-looking forest.

Unfortunately, one of Clint’s new friends gets his face chewed off, in what is by a huge distance the best special effect in the film. Rather than doing anything sensible like reporting it to the police, so the man’s family can at least know, Clint begs his remaining friend to help him bury the dead guy in the woods so no further suspicion will be raised, re: him. This triggers maybe the least convincing use ever of the following line: “What you say makes sense”. No it doesn’t! He wants you to help him bury your friend! Two of his other friends died in mysterious circumstances! You’ve known him for about ten minutes! Run!

Amazingly, they both make it back to civilization alive, and after a rather well-done “Carnival Of Souls” inspired dream sequence, Clint and Jack (I’m not sure that’s his name, but he’s second billed and I’m sick of typing out “his friend”) decide to go back again and dig up the grave of the patriarch of the Martense clan. This kind of makes sense, I suppose, and it ultimately leads them to the secret passage which ultimately leads them to the big secret of the film (that the hideous monsters living underneath the house are members of the Martense family, separated from humanity for so long that they’ve mutated). Jack dies, of course, but Clint figures out that the last surviving member of the Martenses is someone he knows quite well…okay, it’s the editor. I had to reveal that to make the questions I’m about to ask make sense.

This film is bonkers. Cheapness is a given, but through the murk that most of the film exists in, a few slight problems bubble to the surface. If the editor was so desperate to keep the real reason for the murders under wraps, why didn’t he send his dumbest reporter and tell him not to bother doing too much work? Why did he send the best guy he had?

Also, I’m not sure how deliberate it is, but the film is absolutely laden with gay subtext. The only woman in the film walks in on Clint and the editor, with their guns out, and says “this has to stop”. Men seem to sleep in the same room, or next to each other, as a matter of course. There’s a lot of focusing on mens’ behinds too…now, I may just be reading a lot into nothing, as the rest of the film is so dull that my brain needed something to focus on, but it seems if they’re going to spend the time to put that in there, why didn’t they use the time to make the film a bit better? Anyway.

It’s a gem, for sure, and when you watch it, it will give you a newfound respect for the cheap-o films you see every other day.

03

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2 thoughts on “Youtube Film Club – Dark Heritage (1989)

  1. Pingback: Lurking Fear (1994) |

  2. Pingback: Bleeders (1997) |

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