Monday, June 20, 2011

The Passing (2010)

Inherited Evil

I'd like to preface this review by stating that I have no idea when this film was made. The dates that I use next to the film titles are usually from the film's initial release, usually on festival circuits. As of today's date (June 20th, 2011), The Passing doesn't even have an IMDb entry, which makes it even more difficult to find accurate release dates. The movie appears on none of the actor's IMDb pages as well. Even more perplexing is that two of the film's stars have since passed away, including Paul Gleason, forever known for his roles in films like Die Hard and The Breakfast Club as well as Lilyan Chauvin (Pumpkinhead II, Silent Night, Deadly Night). The actors died in 2006 and 2008, respectively, and the DVD was only released recently in 2011. Reviews found on the film's sparsely informative website were from 2008, but I ultimately decided to go with 2010 because it's the date used in the end of the film's credits. This is a random intro paragraph to the film, but I felt the need to share my frustrations and curiosity with you all in case someone has an answer for this. Anyways, where were we?

The Passing centers on three siblings who inherit a vast estate from their grandmother Rebecca after her passing. Having never visited her, her will states that the large inheritance will only come to fruition if her grandchildren spend the weekend alone in the mansion without their parents or any supervision. Her will also specifies that her granddaughter Elizabeth be given a special key that opens an old box somewhere inside of the house, the contents now hers. Soon, Elizabeth and her two older brothers, Jack and Ray, are at the house preparing for their weekend stay, but of course, it wouldn't be a horror film if a group of friends (including some busty blondes) didn't show up to party, and that's exactly what happens. Throughout the night, which starts off with swimming, games, and sex, the friends start to believe they are seeing things. One claims he was attacked by something in the swimming pool, while others believe they're seeing strange reflections in the mirrors. Elizabeth also discovers the mysterious box in her room, which contains a mirror and an old dagger. She soon learns that her grandmother was into some heavy black magic shit and that the inheritance is has been passed from grandmother to granddaughter throughout the generations, leaving no room for Jack and Ray. With Rebecca's image haunting the house's mirrors and terrorizing the houseguests, as well as a deformed boy who has a hidden connection to the family, an easy weekend becomes a fight for survival as people begin to vanish one by one.

The film shifts continuously between what happened that night and then to the present, where Elizabeth (who appears to be the sole survivor) is giving her statement about the incident to a cynical detective (Gleason) and his equally cynical partner. Believing that Elizabeth is crazy, the detectives continue to push her to finish the story in order to find plot holes or evidence that she was at fault. However, Elizabeth sticks to her story that it was her grandmother's ghost that caused the mayhem.

The Passing isn't anything to write home about, but it does have the plotline and vibe of an 80s horror film that gives it a bit of charm. The acting is 50/50 as some characters are likeable and believable, while others are forcing out nearly every line or stammering through the script as if the entire film was improvised. Crystal Day, who plays Elizabeth, is a beautiful actress with a face made for film, but her acting in this film is reduced to wide-eyed, monotone dialogue that comes off very "can't you tell I'm crazy?". With some proper acting lessons, she could be a huge star in the genre as she's very easy on the eyes and her presence commands your attention in nearly every scene she's in.

There are some gritty deaths on display, and the film makes use of its low budget with some surprisingly well crafted visual effects and CGI that easily bypass those of films like Hidden 3D. The setting is also outstanding as Rebecca's estate is gorgeous and labyrinthine and features some great set pieces like the mirrored bathroom, where two untimely deaths occur. There's also plenty of T&A on the menu for those of you with a taste for flesh, as many shower scenes and bedroom antics will occasionally make you forget about the tiresome plot that's trying to remain coherent amongst all of the violence and sex. The ending of the film may also leave you a bit perplexed as it jumps between a few different scenes that fails to fully explain what ultimately happened to Elizabeth, though your guess will probably be as accurate as mine.

The Passing is far from the best ghost story on the market, but it has enough story and development to keep you watching until the end. With veteran actors like Gleason, Chauvin, and a small role by Larry Pennell (Bubba Ho-Tep), this film merits a viewing out of respect for those that passed after its making. Maybe if you hang around mirrors long enough, an apparition of Gleason or Chauvin will appear in the reflection and provide you with some real scares that The Passing couldn't offer.

2/5 stars

Since there are little to no images of this film online, here are some additional screencaps that I took. Use as you wish.


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