Burnt Offerings (1976) Poster

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133 ReviewsOrdered By: Helpfulness
amylil30 August 2004
I've been a big fan of this movie for years, ever since I was about 12. And I've watched as time and time again people have complained about this movie, and I just didn't get it. Now I'm grown up and I see the flaws, but I still don't care. I love Oliver Reed and Karen Black and don't think it could have been acted better. Watching her grow more an more attached to the house is very interesting. The best part I thought was when she surprises her son who drops a crystal bowl that smashes on the floor, and she kneels there, holding the fragments in her hands, sobbing hysterically, almost like a child had died. The boy, Lee Montgomery, I've never had a problem with. The kid from the Shining, now HE was annoying. hehe. And above all, I LOVE how the movie ends. Although it's predictable, it was VERY welcome. Movies with sad, creepy endings that leave you with a shiver always work for me.
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Great 70's horror.
tony515015 July 2005
My 10 out of 10 vote for this movie really stems from the first time I'd seen it. I was an 8 year old at the drive-in with my parents. The assumption was I would watch the first movie of this double bill and fall asleep before the scary movie started. I cannot remember the first movie but I can tell you I will never forget this one. I played like I was sleeping in the back seat but watched the whole movie without my parents knowing. I had nightmares for months to come. Images of the creepy Chauffeur driver and the foggy lighting and lens effects really stuck with me. And the last scene was terrifying. I'm much older now but when revisiting this horror classic I'm reminded of that night in the backseat of my parents car...I still get chills. I also had the same experiences with "Seizure" "From Beyond the Grave" and "The Sentinel".
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Creepy and mesmerizing!
martian-815 July 2001
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of the few horror films that I can still sit back and enjoy. It scared me pretty badly as a kid. I still feel all the haunting vibes and chills as an adult.

It may not be action packed (although the scene with Reed trying to kill his soon in the pool was terrifying--and ultra-realistic), but it certainly gets under your skin. This film is about mood, and it is both beautifully entrancing and ominously mesmerizing. I actually found the acting quite good. Reed was wonderful. I loved the two weird siblings, Roz and Brother (Burgess Meredith, wonderful actor). Their adoration of the house sends chills up my spine.

The true stars of the movie are the music (Bob Cobert's amazing Music Box Theme) and the house (Dunsmuir House & Gardens, in Oakland, California). For true horror buffs out there, this movie inspired the creators of PHANTASM to drive up to Oakland and use this same mansion as the infamous Morningside Mortuary. Which is probably, when the opening moments of PHANTASM rolled in 1979, I already had such fear upon seeing the mansion again on screen!

I have to wonder if other elements of BURNT OFFERINGS inspired PHANTASM as well. Note the creepy old lady upstairs at the end. Reminds one of PHANTASM's eerie fortuneteller. How about B.O.'s terrifying hearse chauffeur? He's kind of like a forerunner of the Tall Man!

BURNT OFFERINGS is well worth the viewing. Don't expect any real jolts or screams. But turn off the lights and let it really sink in. It's well worth a viewing. There are many moments (such as the house renewing itself during the rainstorm) that are bizarre and horribly fascinating. I haven't seen this good a haunted house movie in years.

And definitely visit Dunsmuir in real life. This place is spectacular. You'll fall in love with it, just like Karen Black! I certainly did. I spent awhile helping out as tour guide and volunteer at the estate while attending college in the Bay Area.
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The Best Dan Curtis Film, Period.
luvehorror6 November 2005
I can watch this film over and over again. The atmospheric styles of Dan Curtis are imaginable. His usage of lower camera angles, I could go on and on. With excellent performances from Oliver Reed (R.I.P.), and Bette Davis. I also love how Burgess Meredith is in the film, it gave the movie such a Rod Serling feel. The slow moving suspense is nerve racking but keeps you on your toes at the same time. Much better ending than from the original novel. (listen to the commentary with co-writer William F. Nolan)-Burnt Offerings is truly a HORROR CLASSIC. Brace yourself for a creepy ending. Karen Black is stranger than usually. If you like scary old victorian houses with mysterious goings on, Burnt Offerings is just the flick.
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"Burnt Offerings" -- is it about fertility rites/ renewal via death?
Error_PC_LOAD_LETTER13 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This comment may contain a spoiler or two -- it is for those who have seen the movie and are baffled.

I have not read the novel, and have only seen the 'edited for T.V. version (about four times). But from reading other posters' comments and reviews, it seems that many people are baffled by what the title 'burnt offerings' means and what the heck is going on in the movie. From what little I have seen on television, the theme seems to be that the house injures and even kills its resident occupants in order to renew itself. Sort of a fertility rite, where death was enacted to bring about the Springtime, or renewal. Whenever someone gets hurt, or killed, the house renews a part of itself. Minor injuries may only repair a simple light bulb, or bring a few dead potted plants back to life or restore a cracked mirror. But look what happens at the end !!

The old lady upstairs, Mrs. Allardyce (?sp) is supposedly an eighty-five year old woman'. Isn't that the approx. age of the house (in 1976? Wouldn't you say the Dunsmuir house looks about that old, built in 1891, perhaps?) When the professor / renter asks the owners of the house what 'the catch' is (why it's so inexpensive to rent), the response from one of the owners (who are insulted at the idea that it's a 'catch' -- their response is, 'it's our mother.' -- is that intended as the 'catch? that the house is their mother? (then the conversation shifts to that she is an eighty five year old woman, and that she stays in the upstairs room). I think there may be some symbolism here of the death-and-renewal, earth-goddess sort.

And, by the way, this is NOT a 'haunted house' but what might be described as a slightly different genre' -- a 'living house.' Not haunted, as on the changeling or The Haunting, nor 'demon possessed' as on the Amityville Horror, but a 'living house' -- this one with an appetite and a penchant to renew itself. Lots of old houses, to me, seem to have a soul and thoughts and demeanor of their own. Enjoy the renewal rites.
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The Shining part 0
Maciste_Brother28 October 2007
Well made little horror film. Nothing earth shattering or outstanding but quite effective in some spots and original. What's really remarkable about BURNT OFFERINGS is how much it looks like THE SHINING. Stephen King admits that he was inspired by the Robert Marasco novel (and definitely the movie) when he wrote The Shining and it's quite obvious. It's an almost exact copy. A couple with one kid rent a big mansion for the summer. They bring along the husband's aunt and the 4 start experiencing changes in character. The husband is violent towards the boy. The mother is angry towards the aunt, etc. Everyone starts changing after staying at the house for a while. The house itself is seemingly alive and it takes over the family. The last shot in BURNT OFFERINGS, the one with the photos, is identical to the one in Stanley Kubrick's THE SHINING. Truly shocking. Did the author of the novel sue? Anyway, the movie is a creepy little movie in some parts and somewhat dull in other parts. Watching Bette Davis dying was, eh, a bit unsettling. She really looked like she was dying, the poor old woman. Good but not great. I really love the idea of the house "shedding" its skin. If you've seen THE SHINING and not this film, watch it, you'll be more shock about the similarities than the movie itself.
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Truly Creepy.
rjacob6718 December 2006
I enjoyed this movie immensely. The creepy score, the precarious atmosphere, and the Erie flashbacks of the chauffeur with that huge grin. It was a great ghost story. Some say a bit slow paced, but It just added to the tension. Ben was played well by Reed. A man with many problems, compounded by this house from hell. And Karen Blacks performance from loving wife and mother, to the caretaker of the "old lady". Betty Davis comes off a bit aloof, but that also work well in the story. And the scene with the house "shedding", very creepy. Now for the ending. One of the best I have ever seen. I would even put it up against the original "Wicker Man".
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One of the best horror movies ever made.
ElectricWarlock5 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
If you are looking for blood, gore, or loud jump scares, you might want to look elsewhere. Rather than resorting to cheap tactics, this film focuses heavily on atmosphere, suspense, and tension. There is enough suspense in this film for three movies. There isn't a boring moment in this entire film. I was so captivated by this film, that the first time I watched it, I actually felt as if I lived in the mansion among the characters. Almost never does a film come along in which I forget I'm even watching a movie and can't separate it from reality. This movie did just that. It's story sounds like your run-of-the-mill haunted house film when you simply read the summary, but when you actually watch the film, it is a unique experience never to be forgotten. It is highly similar to The Shining. Both films are sophisticated, chilling horror films that require the viewer to think. Because of that, they are both wonderful.

It is no coincidence that this movie is from the mastermind behind Dark Shadows. Dan Curtis masters suspense and terror in a way very few can. The musical score by Robert Cobert contributes to the unsettling mood of the film perfectly. It is one of my favorite scores of all time. The acting is incredible. Karen Black, Oliver Reed, Bette Davis, and Lee Montgomery all have great chemistry as a family and are all wonderful in their respective performances. The characters are all likable. I don't usually like happy endings in horror movies, but this is a case where I wanted the characters to live because I liked them so much. But sadly, that was not meant to happen. Overall, this film has everything I could want in a horror film and I am glad to be a fan of it.
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Atmospheric chiller
moonspinner5520 July 2006
Talky, but unusual and creepy haunted house movie concerns an ordinary family from the city who rent a country estate for the summer--at a suspiciously low price! A bit confusing at first, but whenever something bad happens (like the father cutting his thumb on the champagne bottle) something good immediately takes its place (the kid switching on what was previously a dead light bulb). The house absorbs the good (the sacrificial new family's spirit and energy) while its inhabitants wither away, physically or mentally. Bette Davis' Aunt Elizabeth ages suddenly (with frighteningly effective make-up), and Anthony James as the chauffeur who haunts Oliver Reed's head is a scary, freaky presence. Karen Black is even odder than usual: I'm not certain whether her not-quite-there expression is what was intended for the role of Marion, but she does something very gutsy for an actress, making herself into a gargoyle (only in her final scene does she overdo it). Superior to the source novel by Robert Marasco, "Burnt Offerings" (the title taken from a biblical reference) is a well-directed slice of the macabre. *** from ****
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