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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
After watching this at night which was a very bad idea, it was
absolutely frightening and gripping. I swear, I couldn't sleep til 4am
in the morning, the movie would seriously mess up your mind and Im not
joking here! I was really shocked that Karen Blacks character as the
mother in the end, became the old lady of the house. How was that even
possible?! She was outside the room the whole time and I honestly was
stunned. I still have my mouth open because like, I didn't expect that
the ending was going to have twists and turns!
I was even surprised that Reed's character jumped out the window and Montgomery as the son, was killed by the house falling on top of him! I really would've loved to have seen what Black as the old lady had in common with the two house owners who the brother & sister. I honestly wish the movie was longer, I just think it would be so interesting to find out what happened next.
This film is too underrated, it should've deserved a lot of awards, it is just brilliant especially with Bette Davis as the grandaunt!
It's been close to 30 years since I've seen Burnt Offerings, as I recall it scaring a little boy very much, but it didn't have the same effect on me this time around. I'm a big fan of 70's horror films, like the original Salem's Lot, Halloween, Phantasm, Jaws, and so forth, but this one didn't age as well as the others in my opinion, but it still had some creepy moments, and I wouldn't hesitate to call Burnt Offerings a good horror film with more atmosphere than actual scares. Many notable faces and names add respectability, including Oliver Reed and Karen Black, who were both terrific as husband and wife, Bette Davis as Aunt Elizabeth(not Fred Sanford's foil), and Burgess Meredith. I liked the lighter hue used for the camera during the entire picture which added an eerie glazed look for that 70's aura of horror. That being said, it just seemed the film was longer than needed, and some scenes were filler with some general weirdness than genuine scares, for which the classic ending more than made up for. I think by this part of the film, it's becoming fairly obvious that Marion is becoming the old lady we never get to see, and when she does in fact turn into the mysterious lady and throws her husband out the attic window, it's not entirely surprising, but it absolutely worked for me. To add to this lunacy, even the young boy gets killed by the crumbling old house, and you don't see that very often; the poor kid(Lee Montgomery) had to deal with 2 wacky parents to begin with, and it's too bad he wasn't spared, but I digress. I must say that after all these years, I was hoping for a few more scares, but it's still worth catching this film if you like the genre and are a fan of horror films.
As a film, this one is OK, but as a novel, it's brilliant. Stephen King places it on his personal top-ten list of horror novels, but failed to include details of Robert Marasco's 1973 book in King's 'Danse Macabre.' The film ably demonstrates the novel's intentions, but falls short in the visuals and scares departments, resorting to cheaply executed gimmickry supposed to horrify the New York Family spending a low-cost summer at a mysterious place Upstate (the mansion used for filming is Dunsmuir House & Gardens, in Oakland, CA, also used in the 007 flick, "A View to a Kill"). The film is not a complete waste, and viewers will be interested to know that there are a few scares that, at least, are worth a peek.
Before someone out there is trying to kill me, I didn't say that it was a bad movie, in fact, it was really strong because there isn't that much happening concerning effects or the flow of the red stuff. It's a ghost house story. But around 76 there were better movies like Exorcist or The Omen. Due tat reason that's why I give it a 5. Don't get me wrong, the performance of cult legend Oliver Reed is extremely strong. The way he plays his part is phenomenal. And what about Karen Black, she's strong too, watch her transform into a possessed lady. As written by some it is indeed the last few minutes that are the best part, the close up of Karen and the reaction of Oliver, gives you the shivers. And let us not forget Bette Davies. But for me it's clear that wouldn't Oliver haven't become an alcoholic he would have been one of the big stars of Hollywood. So if your ready for a creepy story that slowly builds, movie clocks in around 2 hours, then this one is recommended.
As a film, this one is OK, but as a novel, it's brilliant. Stephen King places it on his personal top-ten list of horror novels, but failed to include details of Robert Marasco's 1973 book in Danse Macabre. The film ably demonstrates the novel's intentions, but falls short in the visuals and scares departments, resorting to cheaply executed gimmickry supposed to horrify the New York Family spending a low-cost summer at a mysterious place Upstate (the mansion used for filming is Dunsmuir House & Gardens, also used in A View to a Kill). The film is not a complete waste, and viewers will be interested to know that there are a few scares that, at least, are worth a peek.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For a 70's flick, not bad. Kind of a mashup of Shining/Evil Dead/Fall
of the House of rehsU (thing about it...you'll get it). Yeah, it was a
little slow in parts, and the alternating soft focus was annoying, but
I though the acting overall was good, and there were a few genuine
surprises. I especially found the first scene in the pool, with Reed
and the son, particularly disturbing in how easily it turned from
horseplay into something more. And I kept thinking, "That poor kid! It
looks like Reed is really trying to drown him!!" I doubt any of today's
directors would take such risks.
There seems to be a lot of posts referencing the "inexplicable" title. It really isn't that complicated. A burnt offering is simply a sacrifice. The title refers to the Rolf family, who are sacrificed to the house by the brother and sister.
"Burnt Offerings" has an interesting premise that takes far too long to
explain. A family moves into a house that seems to have a life of its own.
Simple and direct. The film, however, at almost 2 hours in length takes its
sweet time to get things going only to reach a "surprise" ending which, I
will admit, is a bit spooky, but is easy to guess long before it is
The performances by Karen Black and, especially, Oliver Reed make this film worth watching. There is a scene where Reed puts on a pair of glasses he has found at the bottom of a swimming pool. His son is in the pool with him and soon Reed seems possessed and starts playing with his son a little too rough until it appears Reed may be trying to kill him. Watch Reed closely in this scene and you can see how he is being taken over but is fighting it. He seems to be enjoying hurting his son at the same time that he is trying to stop himself. It's a strong performance in a mediocre film.
The Rolf family rents a big old house in the country for the summer,
but there's got be a catch to it as it was real cheap and there is one.
They have look after an old lady who lives upstairs who never ventures
out of her room. Though, after a couple days of getting set into the
house, strange things begin to happen. Where the father (Oliver Reed)
begins to have nightmares and becomes possessed. The aunt (Bette Davis)
becomes unhealthy and strictly bed ridden and the mother (Karen Black)
becomes entrenched in spending most of the time up in the old lady's
room. This is when we realise the house is restoring itself by feeding
on its tenants.
Forget about the baffling title, as it has no relevance to what actually happens on screen. The idea of this tale came from a story of only a couple of pages. So that's why some scenes seem to stall the pace of the two hour running time, the director probably could've chopped some scenes out. This is an incredibly slow burner that mostly plays on the things that you don't see and creates an atmospheric house that has a life of its own. Not much happens to begin with and actually it stays like that throughout most of the film, with only small shocks here and there. So you got to have a lot patience to sit through it as the increasing horror slowly builds. Subtleness is a big factor to it as you feel that it's building for something big. It's psychologically gripping for most part and a real unnerving tone that plays on the character's minds and ours. The spine-tingling and persistent music score keeps a rather haunting mood to it all. It very much reminded me of "The Shinning".
What let it down was rather predictable story telling. It's pretty easy to know what's going to happen and some elements that fill the plot are too transparent that you uncover the secrets before any strange occurrences. Allot of incidents are left unexplained which's rather annoying, like the unforgettable images that Oliver Reed's character dreams from his past and about the house. Just like Karen Black's character we become infatuated with the house too. There are also moments in the flawed story of how could that be so or lacking logic. The story has its amusing and humorous moments to begin with and that's especially because of the strong performances. Though, where things really pick up are towards the end. The horror creeps up onto the viewer with an excellent climax that ends rather shockingly. Not shocking for the revelation because it's rather foreseeable, but what happens after that. The downbeat ending leaves you feeling rather empty and with some unanswered questions. The premise sounded interesting enough and I didn't find it particularly boring, but the story did drag at times and it could've been far better than it actually was.
The film's production valves weren't bad. The eerie interior of the grand house was the chilling backbone that overwhelms the film with a disturbing aurora. The outside scenery was rather nice to look at. The cinematography was flowing with angle shots and a lot high shots that capture the backdrop. At times it was rather misty the frame shots. The direction by Dan Curtis was fair with some well-executed scenes that sometimes tighten the screws, though other times it just felt out of place. The special effects and make-up was reasonable. The performances were excellent and definitely gave more to this predictable haunted house tale. Oliver Reed was solid in his delivery, Karen Black does a good job and Bette Davis added some life to the film.
Rather patchy haunted house tale that is very atmospheric and has strong performances that ground it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Burnt Offerings" is a haunted house movie, not reviewed very kindly
among horror fans, and it does kind of lay itself open for this by
being a bit daft. Basically, a not-so happy family rent out a HUGE
empty mansion for the summer, from very kindly caretakers and for next
to nothing (Why is it so cheap? What's the catch? Oh please...). Soon,
they are turning on each other and terrible things are afoot. Will they
I won't reveal the secret of the house in Burnt Offerings, just in case a handful of people wish to find it out first hand, but be aware that the title is completely meaningless! What you should know in advance, though, is that Karen Black, Oliver Reed and Bette Davis (plus small boy) have to be the most unlikely family unit ever in existence - they are all nothing like each other. I know this is supposed to be a dysfunctional family, but there isn't an ounce of screen magic between any of them, they all act like they are not even on the same screens as each other, let alone in the same film. Without this important chemistry, you may find you don't have the slightest interest in the fate of this unlikeable bunch, as none of the characters are even particularly nice people: Black is a whiney drudge, Reed is a thug, and Bette Davis plays almost no important part at all.
Apart from the quite picturesque looking house at the centre of all the trouble, there isn't really a lot of on screen excitement to get carried away with either. There are very few shock or horror scenes, and the very low level of evil atmosphere marks this down as more of a "made-for-TV" chiller rather than the big budget theatrical release it is supposed to be. Mind you it was created by TV veteran Dan Curtis, who has a very impressive TV success legacy to his name, but maybe that is exactly what seems to be keeping it rooted in this understated territory. Now I can enjoy a low key thriller, but with all the rather grand presentation, I felt let down that nothing really dazzling ever actually happened.
There are however, some good moments. All the characters seem to be menaced in ways that seem tailor made to prey on their personal fears (Reed's visions are of a creepy hearse driver which actives painful memories of his mother's death). This personal manipulation is a nice idea, but it's not new, as characters being preyed on by something that "knows what scares you the most" is an old horror staple, already used a decade earlier in "The Haunting", a film which this movie often draws comparisons with. Still, some of it works. Reed has one good scene when he appears driven to quite roughly (and realistically) drown the young son in the swimming pool - I wondered for a moment whether the boy's struggles were actually acting or not! Black's fate is a bit more whimsical, she appears to drift into reveries that connect with the former residents of the house and ends up moping over old photos and spending all day in the attic. And as mentioned, Bette Davis has an insult of a role that simply sees her fall prone to some degenerative affliction and become bed-ridden and unintelligible.
The main problem (and it's one that the film is not alone in), is that there is no reason why these people don't just pack up their stuff and leave. The script still gives us all the various excuses, but surely when lives are very obviously at risk, they would just get out? And when they finally do manage this, the script STILL engineers a way to get them to follow each other back inside, i.e. "She's been gone too long, I'll just go back inside too and check on her...arghhh!"...Groan!
Sorry, it's just not exciting or horrifying enough to satisfy horror or haunted house fans. The house is elegant rather than creepy, and the scares are thinly served. Watch it only if bored, or if any of the cast are favourite actors of yours.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
To judge this book by its' cover, one would assume that it is the stuff
of a 70s horror fan's dreams. Here is a movie directed by Dan Curtis,
known for such fare of DARK SHADOWS and TRILOGY OF TERROR, about a
haunted house that feeds on the pain and emotions of its' inhabitants.
The cast is extraordinary and reads like a wish list. A couple played
by Oliver Reed (CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF) and Karen Black, who had starred
in Curtis' TRILOGY OF TERROR, along with their aunt played by the
legendary Bette Davis. We, also, get Burgess Meredith, who seems to pop
up continually in horror films from this time era. It seems like it
couldn't possibly miss, but miss it certainly does.
I am not a giant fan of the "haunted house" film. Of all the little sub-genres of horror it tends to be one of my least favorite, but when done well, some of those are among my favorite horror films as well. The fans of this movie will want to use words like "understated", "brooding" and "atmospheric" to describe the sort of ominous tone that this movie wants so badly to achieve. The words they should really be looking for are "dreadfully boring" as it is hard to find anything worthwhile in this snoozer. The biggest issue I have with it would come from Curtis' background in television. That's exactly the way this movie feels is a waste of budget and cast, as Curtis really does nothing more than perfectly re-create the look and feel of 70s TV horror. Supposedly, this movie had a fairly large budget for its' time, but I couldn't tell you what they spent it on for the life of me (beyond the aforementioned acting talent). There are absolutely no effects. This is almost the anti- haunted house" movie as we start to wonder if our characters are going crazy out of sheer boredom more than being driven there by ghosts and spirits.
The 70s were full of great, effective haunted house flicks like THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE, THE SENTINEL and THE AMITYVILLE HORROR. You could create a Top 25 list just from this decade of great horror films. The viewer cannot help but place this against the competition and it comes up sorely lacking. I would challenge any great fan of this movie to honestly come up with one element or characteristic that makes this movie worth the watch? Even the great cast are just not given anything to work with here. The dialog wants so much to be meaningful, but feels empty. The scenes where each character have their own brushes with madness could have been rife with tension and paranoia, but fail to elicit any real pathos from the viewer.
It has been said that Stephen King was a big fan of this movie. If that is in fact true, then it's an interesting coincidence. This would have been released one year before King wrote THE SHINING. Those works have a lot in common, a family with skeletons in the closet moves into a house with its' own skeletons, a house that slowly feeds on their emotions until it has destroyed them. It's just that King took the kernel of story that is present here and actually made it worthwhile.
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