Burnt Offerings ★★½

Hoop-Tober 2017 Entry #3

BURNT OFFERINGS is a surprisingly bleak picture, boasting an A-list cast and a bang-up ending I still hesitate to recommend. It's a slow burn that borders on dragging, and the most horrific moments come not from the overt horror elements but the familial interactions that come about as a result of the haunting.

The quick summary: a normal family decides upon a remote mansion for their summer getaway, and at $900 for the entire summer it's a steal. Only two catches: they have to take care of the mysterious mother who stays locked away upstairs and - oh yeah - did I mention the dilapidated
house was haunted and lives off the fear and pain of whoever lives there, slowly rebuilding itself to its former glory with every drop of spilled blood?

I wanted to really like this more than I did. It helps when your leads are Oliver Reed and Karen Black, with backup from Bette Davis. It's weird to see Reed play such a normal person, the straight man who sees what's going on with the house and tries to escape its clutches. The moments of real horror also come from him - as the house slowly poisons the family, Reed has a terrible moment where a pool game with his son turns violent. Later an attempt at romance with his wife turns ugly, and not just because she's completely fallen under the spell of the house. It's these brutal moments of reality that really make your stomach turn more than the twist ending and final acts of more overt horror. But I'll give BURNT OFFERINGS credit for sticking the landing with and ending that is unsparing to its leads.

Do I recommend it? It's good, but we're not talking anything on the level of something like THE HORROR OF HELL HOUSE or other 70s fare. Check it for the ending, but you can leave the rest behind.