Mixing supernatural horror with a very healthy dose of realism, The Heiress is one of those offerings that grounds its scares in the mundane, the normal and the recognisable – to good effect.

Riffing on a number of ‘haunted house’ flicks, but giving it a very British twist, director Chris Bell eschews an overload of ‘in your face’ scares (to begin with anyway), instead focusing on the human relationships, the family struggles and strains – and then letting the horror seep through.

The film is far from perfect – there are still issues with pacing and the overall effect is of holding the interest rather than thrilling, but it remains a notable outing that has a lot going for it.

Key to that is the cast, with The Heiress honing in on sisters Claire (Candis Nergaard) and Anna (Jayne Wisener). While close – and living together – the relationship between the pair has become a whole lot more complex, with Claire suffering from fits and absences, throwing Anna into the role of unwitting – and arguably unwanting – carer.

Claire certainly seemed to lead an active life in previous times, but now relies on her sister more than ever, which seems to have added a thick layer of frustration to Anna’s existence, most notably in her relationship with her boyfriend Dan (David Wayman).

Into the mix is then thrown family tragedy, with the film opening with the wake for Claire and Anna’s grandmother, who seemed to have issues of her own, both physically and psychologically.

While Anna seems able to park her emotions and attempt to move on, the family death hits Claire hard, which soon manifests itself in visions of long-deceased family members, and a feeling that their home is in effect being haunted.

But is she right? Are these apparitions merely in her mind or, terrifyingly, all too real? And, if they are, just what do they want?

These are the questions Bell asks us right from the off, along with cleverly avoiding as much cliché as possible. Yes, there are creepy kids and the like, but the whole thing is played pretty straight, which in turn makes the atmosphere more unsettling.

Even the sister’s home plays a part in this, about as average a house as you could find, simply sat on a suburban street and suggesting nothing of the potential horrors playing out inside.

Make no mistake though the performances rule here, and Nergaard as Claire is a real standout – sympathetic, vulnerable and showcasing an array of physical and mental ailments. Wisener as Anna makes for a good sisterly foil and it is the female dynamic that very much drives the film, with the handful of male characters merely peripheries really.

Much like the recent Relic, or even the likes of Saint Maud and Our House, The Heiress takes the inherent tension in family life and everyday relationships and spins that familiarity into something unnerving. While it never reaches the heights of those aforementioned, it is certainly worth checking out.

The Heiress lands on digital platforms on March 15

Movie Review: The Heiress
3.0Overall Score
Reader Rating: (3 Votes)

About The Author

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Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written three books - on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014), the history of the character Norman Bates (2015) and the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker (2017). He is currently working with director Richard Loncraine to explore all avenues in a bid to orchestrate the re-release of 1978 Mia Farrow chiller Full Circle