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(aka "The Heirloom" or "Zhai bian" )


directed by Leste Chen
Taiwan 2005


Architect James (Jason Chang) has returned from England to Taiwan to discover that he has inherited a massive old mansion from distant relatives. He thinks the house is the perfect place start a family with dancer fiancée Yo (Terri Kwan) who does not want to settle down yet. Yo relents and moves in but things get weird fast. There's a giant family shrine on one of the upper floors. Wet footprints appear in the hallways. Friends Yi-Chen (Yu-chen Chang) and Ah-Tseng (Tender Huang) keep popping up in various rooms of the house after they have left with no memory of how they ended up back there. After Ah-Tseng turns up dead in a hotel bath (the cause of death is hanging but there is no rope). The police believe Yi-Chen to be their chief suspect since she was the last person to speak to Ah-Tseng but even the detective starts to believe in ghosts when he goes to sleep and finds himself back in the house. Journalist Yi-Chen looks into the house's past and discovers that twenty years ago, fifteen members of the family all hung themselves at exactly the same time in the same room in the house. Yo contacts the only survivor, James' aunt who reveals that the secret to the family's power was the nursing of infant ghosts and tells Yo what caused the almost all of the family members to kill themselves that night twenty years ago and that Yo and James are in danger if they stay in the house and start a family (but Yo has something to confess as well).

I didn't think much of THE HEIRLOOM when I first saw it (among the glut of Tartan Asian horror titles I was renting at the time) but the film has improved with a repeat viewing. Although a long haired apparition makes an occasional appearance and the house is slightly less waterlogged than the apartment building in DARK WATER, THE HEIRLOOM largely eschews post-RINGU/JU-ON horror clichés in favor of a more old-fashioned ghost story (goosed with the set-piece deaths of supporting characters). Things take a downward turn after the WTF exchange where Yo expresses her nervousness about staying in the house and James replies "So far strange things have only happened to other people" after a corpse with bloody stumps for hands has turned up in their living room and attractive leads Kwan and Chang don't quite manage to pull off the pathos required for the ending but the film closes on a somber rather than shocking note allowing certain suggested plot points to fall into place on their own). Not perfect but a nice time-waster.

Eric Cotenas


Theatrical Release: 16 September 2005 (Taiwan)

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DVD Review: Tartan Video (Tartan Asia Extreme) - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Tartan Video

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 1:36:42

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate:
6.17 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio Mandarin DTS 5.1; Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1; Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
Subtitles English, Spanish, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Tartan Video

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• Audio commentary by Director, Screenwriter, and Production Crew (in Mandarin with English subtitles)
• The Making of THE HEIRLOOM (4:3; 23:59; in Mandarin with English subtitles)
• Deleted Scenes (4:3; 6:46; in Mandarin with English subtitles)
• Theatrical Trailer (4:3; 1:30; in Mandarin with English subtitles)

DVD Release Date: April 25th, 2006

Chapters 17



Tartan's DVD features an anamorphic, interlaced transfer (since it is not PAL-converted, either something is off in Tartan's encoding or most Asian companies are only supplying hard-telecined masters) with the usual array of Tartan audio tracks (DTS 5.1, Dolby 5.1 and 2.0 stereo) which along with the extras necessitates a single-layer encoding of the feature. The HK Region 3 DVD featured matrixed DTS-ES 6.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 EX tracks as well as English subtitles and the Thai DVD has Mandarin and Thai 5.1 tracks and similar extras but do not appear to have the audio commentary present on the Tartan disk.

Unlike other Tartan Asia Extreme titles, Tartan did not distribute this film in the UK. The R2 UK Yume Pictures release is, as expected, an NTSC-PAL conversion but it lacks a DTS track, the commentary, and deleted scenes although it does feature the "making of" featurette and trailer. For the extras and the price (especially from Amazon Marketplace sellers used and new), the Tartan disc is the most comprehensive but A/V aficionados who find the film worth their time might want to pick up the R3.

 - Eric Cotenas


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Tartan Video

Region 1 - NTSC

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