Make The Offering (FANTASTIC) To Access Effective Haunted House Horror
Title: The Offering
First Non-Festival Release: TBD
Director: Oliver Park
Writer: Hank Hoffman, Jonathan Yunger
Runtime: 93 Minutes
Starring: Nick Blood, Emily Wiseman, Paul Kaye
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
This film’s review was written after its screening at the Fantastic Film Festival in 2022.
Art (Nick Blood) visits his estranged father (Allan Corduner) at his childhood home in the city with his wife, Claire (Emily Wiseman). Unbeknownst to Claire, Art has re-financed their home and is desperate to get his father to sign over his home as collateral so they can keep theirs. He’s even willing to reconcile with his father after freezing him out when his mother died. The corpse of a recently deceased widower complicates things as it is possessed by a very powerful demon named Abyzou. Once freed, this demon will stop at nothing to get what it wants: Art and Claire’s unborn child.
An eerie yet simple haunted house horror, The Offering dives into Jewish folklore to showcase a competent tale of demonology gone wrong.
At the end of the day, The Offering is about learning to let go of those that have passed. The central demon came into this world because a man couldn’t let go of his husband. This in turn leads to a child being taken and the man dying before starting the process over with a new family: Art and Claire. Art refused to forgive his father for his absence during his mother’s gradually death from cancer. The rift left the family vulnerable to this sort of attack, especially when Art could have seen the signs sooner, had he only continued to hold steady in his faith.
Art is a frustrating character because of his continual proclivity for making poor decisions. This is, however, what makes him most relatable. He is cowardly, confused, and misguided in his attempts to rid himself of this entity. His lack of understanding stands from him abandoning his father and, by extension, his faith.
Claire does not get much in terms of character development, but she is present for most of the heavy supernatural scares. It’s disappointing because there is so much material to be mined for a character that is so out-of-place in this situation. She has very little background knowledge in Judaism already, and now must face off against something that is so ancient that few already believe. Yet, most of what she does is get scared in empty rooms and in her dreams.
Abyzou looks incredible. Menacing is an understatement with the creature design here. Leaning both into realism while adding some notable supernatural flairs, Abyzou looks every bit as horrifying as a child eating entity would. Credit has to be made not only for the special effects team but the cinematographer for highlighting the best of this terrifying beast throughout the film. Shown just enough to establish danger but not too much to ruin the effect, this is undoubtedly one of the triumphs of this little film.
Speaking of which, the house is stunning. Two versions of the family estate are used throughout The Offering, one fresh and homey and then one that looks like it is ripped straight from a nightmare. Visually dark and decrepit, the character of the house changes once Abyzou has revealed herself and puts the final touches on her quest for power.
All these elements combine to create an effective, if familiar haunted house chiller. The biggest complaint that can be lobbed at The Offering is that too many sound cues are used to set up jump scares. It gets distracting and takes away from the slow burning dread that naturally comes from the narrative. The cast does a fine job but ultimately there isn’t any stand out performance. Other than these few issues, The Offering is a solidly dark and nihilistic film that should satisfy most horror buffs.
Although it never quite crescendos to the terrifying potential of its premise, The Offering is a solid demonic horror film that will unsettling many who come across it. Interesting characters are put through the ringer in all manners but are ultimately unrealized due to the constant shifting between points of view. The meat of the story, however, is ripe with intriguing Jewish demonology that enriches the story thematically while also contributing to the overall atmosphere and aesthetic of the film. Although it never quite lives up to expectations, it is an entirely serviceable haunted house film that does why it needs to spook its viewers. For horror fans seeking out counter programming to Christian-centric demonic films, The Offering provides exactly what you ask.
Overall Score? 6/10