Asia has churned out some very good horror films over the past decade. Breathing life into the genre, they brought new vision and new approaches. Of course the first ones to cross the pond were the good ones, films like The Ring, The Eye, Dark Water, and The Grudge; then when the top tier titles were spent we started to get middling titles, and as those began to run out the quality starts to become even more widespread.
The Heirloom hails from Taiwan, and while it picks up in the latter third, it is such a dreadfully dull slog that you may not be able to make it all the way through. The Heirloom is one of those movies that has some very good things going for it, making the whole quite frustrating.
James Yang (Jason Chang) is an architect, recently returning to Taiwan after studying in the UK. He has inherited a large gothic mansion on the outskirts of Taipei. It is an old decaying home whose origins date back to the Chinese occupation. Even though he is urged to sell right from the start, he decides to keep it, and invites his girlfriend, Yo (Terri Kwan), to come and live with him there. She has some initial misgivings, but quickly agrees to move in. Shortly thereafter, in what any veteran of these haunted house type tales will know, strange things start happening. The first victims of the occurrences are James and Yo's friends Yi-Chen and Cheng.
I guess it would help to back up a little bit. The film opens with text telling of the ancient Chinese tradition of worshiping young ghosts. They would take dead fetuses, keep them in jars and feed them blood in return for good fortune. Like most ancient practices used in movies of this type, this one has dire consequences. In this case, a mass suicide by James' family twenty years earlier leaves him the heir to everything, and now that he is of age, it is his. The problem is that he knows nothing of his family's legacy, of their use of dead fetuses to better the family's fortune.