Haunted houses have been a favorite staple of horror cinema. It really takes a powerful creative mind to come up with something special while using this overused trope. We have seen basically everything in this genre. There are too many horror movies to count, and most of them work on all the same premises, with all the same tropes and all the same characters even. So, what do new creatives do when choosing to do a haunted house film? How do they innovate the premise? Let’s review The Offering, a film showing now at Fantastic Fest that tries to do just that.
The Offering is directed by Oliver Park from a script by Hank Hoffman. The film stars Nick Blood, Emm Wiseman, Paul Kaye, and Allan Corduner. The film tells the story of a young couple with a baby on the way. The husband finds himself trapped by debt, so he reaches out to his father to reconnect after having a strained relationship for many years. However, the time to reconnect seems to be ill-advised, as the funeral home run by his father has just recently received a strange corpse that carries more than the scent of death with it.
From the moment The Offering starts, you can see that this is a very well-made film. The shots feel and look correct, and the acting is solid. It sounds great, and towards the end, director Oliver Park and his team of filmmakers manage to create some wonderful and creepy sequences. And yet, you know something is missing. You know that even when the movie is trying to add some religious favor, and some Jewish culture to the mix, it is just not enough. The movie is just too similar to everything that you have ever seen in the horror genre.
The Offering isn’t a bad film, but there is nothing special about it either. It feels forgettable in every sense of the word. So, unless this is your first horror film ever, this movie won’t really give you anything to think about, and it probably won’t stay with you after the credits roll. It is a shame because the actors and the rest of the technical team are doing their best job, and they actually managed to do something that feels and looks like a movie. The main issue involved the story and characters that are just not as strong as they should be.
The movie moves between the boring and the predictable when it comes to its story, and that is just a fatal mistake. This problem arises because the main character is just not interesting enough. The fact that he is a father might resonate with some people. You can also add that he is the father of a baby on the way, and he might not be in the best financial state to give his baby everything that it deserves. It is a relatable situation, but it is hard to care when the character is just so boring.
Here, the fault falls not only on the writing but also on Nick Blood, as an actor. He is not able to elevate the material to the next level, and so the flat character remains flat throughout the entirety of the movie. Emm Wiseman fairs a bit better, but her character is also incredibly flat. The veterans, Paul Kaye and Allan Corduner do manage to take their characters and add something extra to them. It is in these situations that you notice that having the right actors for the right roles is a must.
The movie runs for about 90 minutes, but it stays flat most of the time until the last stretch of the third act arrives. Park manages to create a very cool sequence with explosions, and dark spirits going around, but it all falls flat because we don’t really care about these characters. The very end also falls into a practice that feels quite dated nowadays and will leave a lot of people unsatisfied with the movie. The ending is one of the most important parts of any movie. A great ending can really fix a boring movie, but The Offerings doesn’t manage to do that.
The movie tries very hard to make you interested in Jewish culture and how the legends and scriptures might tie into the demon that is going around wreaking havoc in this funeral home. By itself, this element of the film is very interesting, but the way the story applies to the story is just the same old thing we always end up seeing in demon possession movies. Thankfully, The Offering is very well-made outside of its story, so it will definitely find an audience out there. An audience that finds solace in the familiar.
The Offering offers nothing new to the genre. Park and his team make a very solid film from a technical point of view, but the script needed to be spiced up some more before any shooting began. The result is just another horror movie that has a hard time differentiating itself from countless others.