Firstly, I’d just like to thank Producer, Zach Green for allowing me access to an online screener of the 14 minute, Horror/Drama short “Heir”, the latest from Fatal Pictures and Directed by Richard Powell. If you haven’t heard of Fatal Pictures go ahead and check out my reviews for their previous films, “Worm” and “Familiar” see reviews* https://adamthemoviegod.com/familiar-review/ and https://adamthemoviegod.com/worm-review/. Green and Powell have been doing their thing for the better part of a decade and FP (in my opinion) has become somewhat of a benchmark for how you go about making a successful independent film. After watching their work and prior to making my debut short, I actually took some notes in regard to production value and things I didn’t want to compromise on. All the little things that these guys do really well, I hoped too as well. Anyways.. enough about that and onto this latest project. Heir is about Gordon (played by Fatal Pictures regular, Robert Nolan) and his son Paul (Mateo D’Avino) who embark on an impromptu road trip, where Gordon plans to treat himself in a secret desire that involves Denis (played by Bill Oberst Jr.), a mysterious stranger whom he met online.
As I stated earlier, Fatal Pictures have made a couple of the best short films that I’ve seen and reviewed since this site’s inception. Both “Worm” and “Familiar” shared parallel worlds in their own unique way and Heir feels much the same (heck, just take a look at the three similar style posters). Worm tackled the serious topic of depression, with its key character’s jealous and narcissistic personality (also played by Nolan) on the brink of completely exploding. There’s actually no on-screen violence in the film but the hate spewed monologues Robert delivers while playing this volatile high school teacher, Mr Dodd, make it an extremely memorable indie film. In “Familiar”, Powell and Green chose to tell the story of paranoid family man, John Dodd (brother of Geoffrey from “Worm”). This second short was a little more fleshed out (pardon the pun) and introduced a clever element of science fiction that I loved. Maybe it’s only because Robert Nolan has worked on three films from Fatal Pictures that it feels like Heir fits the same mold as the aforementioned. Instead, this latest blend of Horror/Drama feels more like the compacted and potentially distant cousin of something like David Cronenberg’s, “The Fly”.
The film opens with a really effective bass orientated score that underlines Gordon’s mysterious agenda. There’s a lot of static sounds and odd noise that essentially plays as the entire score throughout the second half, it all sounds really good. The dialogue audio is crisp and clear too. The combination of gorgeous lighting and really consistent cinematography is what drives the high production value of Heir. These specific technical aspects are always of a high standard in Fatal Pictures work. Michael Jari Davidson was the cinematographer for their previous film, Familiar, as well as Audrey Cummings home invasion gem, “Berkshire County” (which you can also find a review for under “Low Budget Horror”). All of the framing in Heir is perfectly gauged and the shots are extremely sharp. On top of that, some of the dolly work and panning is fantastic, most notably when Paul gets out of the car to alleviate himself, along with the scene of his and Gordon’s entrance to the diner. There’s not a great deal of action but the effects on display are all practical and look pretty good given the limited budget.
Being a huge fan of independent film (collecting and reviewing them for years), you can imagine the anticipation and excitement I had for seeing Bill Oberst Jr. and Robert Nolan, two heavyweights going toe to toe in a Horror film. These two guys are arguably the most well-rounded and best performers on the independent circuit right now. I’ve been a fan of Oberst’s work for a long time and “Worm” was my introduction to Robert Nolan, of whom I’ve since been an admirer of. From their first encounter in the diner, Bill’s “Denis”, carries a sinister front and it draws you in immediately. Most people will get the intended connotation, though clearly all is not as it seems because even Gordon, concealing his palm that’s oozing with inexplicable puss, knows something seems off. The juxtaposition of Bill’s line delivery and energy, with Robert’s reserved and controlled manner, makes for an engaging conflict. Nolan has become so adept at playing these multi faceted and dark characters that I know I’m getting a great film before I even sit down. Bill and Robert are most definitely a powerhouse duo in a genre made for them.
The details in the climax of the film aren’t entirely clear but that’s okay, they don’t need to be. If I have an issue, it’s with the sequencing of the final scenes and the way they alternate from inside the house, to outside it. My preference would have been to see the events inside play out in their entirety and close on those external shots.
I’m so glad Fatal Pictures are providing us with great short films and Heir definitely continues that trend. Yet again, this is another intriguing little story and I was pleased to see them bring Bill on board, as well as continuing their working relationship with Robert Nolan, man he’s good. Hopefully this is just the first of many more collaborations to come between Oberst and Nolan. The score is unnerving, the lighting beautifully presented and Davidson’s camera work (with Powell’s direction) clearly showcases the quality of product you get from these guys. The effects were a nice addition but it’s really those two leading performances that keep you hooked. There’s that one plot point that could have been a bit clearer and I had a differing opinion on how I wanted to see the end presented. Heir isn’t quite as good as Familiar (honestly I don’t think much is) but it’s right up there with 2010’s, Worm. I suggest that if you haven’t seen a Fatal Pictures film you get your hands on a copy of one as soon as possible, you won’t regret it!
My rating for “Heir” is 8.5/10