The three Naibert children, in their teens and early twenties, inherit a vast estate from their grandmother Rebecca. But unknown to them, the family inheritance has passed from grandmother to granddaughter for centuries-and Rebecca has a long reach from the grave to assure that the line is unbroken.
“The Passing” comes from director John Harwood, a relative up-and-comer in straight-to-video material. The cast is comprised of mostly no name talent, with the exception of iconic character actor, Paul Gleason (“Die Hard” (1988), “The Breakfast Club” (1985)). When three grandchildren of a twisted (and deceased) grandmother, throw a party at her old estate, people start dying in strange, almost supernatural ways. Is the house haunted? Is there a killer on the loose? Are the children cursed? All this, mixed up with a canned music score, and some local band rock songs, make for a stereotypical horror film, that could have simply done better.
The film starts with a surprising opening kill sequence, that establishes the stylistic choices that will come up for the rest of the film, including POV shots, intense color correction, and some bad acting. Whats starts as cliché and stereotypical, ends with a creative death sequence that keeps the viewer interested in what will happen next.
Many horror tropes, or clichés, are evident throughout the entirety of the film. Ever since John McTiernan’s “Predator” (1987), many horror/thrillers have incorporated stylized point-of-view shots from the killers. This film is no exception. Horny young adults are working their magic at every turn, adding a “sin” factor to the story. It seems that the party was inserted only to provide opportunities for people to have sex before they get bumped off. Bad slow-motion is interspersed throughout, and does not add much to the story. It also holds strongly to the idea that every scary moment needs a music cue. This has become a trend since the dawn of straight-to-video horror. It usually emphasizes the idea that the “scare” itself was not really scary at all.
The plot gets overly complicated about halfway through. With supernatural occurrences, character disappearances, and a mentally disabled family member on the loose, the viewer has no idea where the film is going. What is the audience supposed to be scared of? While the viewer is watching, consistent interruptions from the detective played by Gleason, break any sense of pacing. He is interrogating the only survivor of the night, who is telling the story of these deaths and events, even though she wasn’t present at many of them, herself.
Paul Gleason does a fine job playing himself, as usual, but the other actors really do poorly with their characters. More than once in the film, an actor flubs his line, but it ends up in the final cut anyways. The cinematography leaves some to be desired, but does not fall flat. The gore effects are standard, but not inspired. The audio could have used work though. The viewer can hear when mics are switched between actors, and often times it becomes distorted. The film suffers from an overlong run time as well. By about an hour in, it becomes repetitive (how many times can someone repeat the names of the missing people? how many conversations does it take to finally go to the police?).
Throughout the movie, some okay scares occur, but tend to be hidden by sub-par effects, or followed by un-original kills. This story was perfectly open to having a sense of paranoia pervading it, in the vein of John Carpenter’s “The Thing” (1982), but sacrificed that for cheap jump-scares and an awkward final battle sequence. Ultimately, the film tries to end in a smart fashion, but fails, and convolutes its plot even more.
By the time the film ends, it is apparent that it offers nothing special. It is stereotypical. It does not offer anything new to tired plot devices. That’s not always bad, but many times it is. It is hard to say this is a bad film. It offers its audience what they want, without giving anything extra. This movie is par for the course. It will find an audience on friday nights, with friends drinking a few beers together. It will not, however, move on with a fan base. This is perfectly forgettable fare, that suffers from a lack of originality in both story and execution.
The Passing (2011)