There is a new horror short that is not to be missed. Written and directed by Richard Powell and produced by Zach Green, Heir is as intriguing as it is disturbing, built on an idea that bends the monster-as-metaphor trope. Horror fans are accustomed to monsters serving as a stand-in for a larger issue. Godzilla is not really a dinosaur but the fear of nuclear war. Invasion of the Body Snatchers reminded us that those commies could be hiding anywhere in America. Even sci-fi action films like District 9 substituted South African blacks for aliens to tell an entertaining story about not so entertaining apartheid. These and similar films always use this fantastical metaphor to engage audiences into an otherwise dreary subject.
Heir is not one of those films. Instead, what if being a monster was a biological predisposition? In this case, the “dreary subject” tackles the vicious cycle of child abuse, and the abusers, seemingly human, are alien-like monsters simply exercising their nature. It is an interesting idea, one that forces viewers to ask what role our biology plays in everyday decisions? Consider controversial studies that posit killers, rapists, and others immersed in social taboos acting upon what their DNA is telling them to do. An excuse? Absolutely not. But Heir is not a film about justification and empathy but about the manifestation of abusers actually being monsters. One must remove the metaphor to see that the manifestation, like the abuse itself, is terrifying.
The story is about a father (Robert Nolan) taking his son to visit an old friend from college (Bill Oberst Jr.). Nolan’s character experienced abuse as a child, and his only way to cope is to have his son experience similar abuse at the hands of his friend. Oberst Jr., whose performance is so creepy that I literally had chills watching his every move, is this manifestation I speak of above. Why the father will allow his son to experience a similar fate is unknown, but it is also doesn’t need to be explained within the confines and context of this 14-minute film. What matters is that one abuser acts on his nature, and the other does not. But the point is that monsters never need explanation. They are, after all, monsters.
Heir is not one to be missed. It is a fascinating exploration into a disturbing subject matter that could easily become a full-length feature. It will leave you questioning the rationale for abuse and the abusers who subject their victims to violence. It is, after all, in humanity’s nature to question why.
Images courtesy of Fatal Pictures