Review of Burnt Offerings

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Another movie that comes up frequently in my list writing, Burnt Offerings is an unusual haunted house horror; among what I would call the epitome of haunted house fare, this is delightfully dark, well-acted and still effectively chilling despite hokiness.

Oliver Reed and Karen Black star as a couple (The Rolfs) with a young son who rent a villa for the summer. An invisible force in the house has power over the Rolfs, which has profound psychological effects. Reed’s character Ben becomes powered, while Karen Black, who plays Marian, becomes strangely prepossessed with and attached to the home. Ben begins to have haunting flashbacks to a committal he attended in his childhood. These eerie black-and-white flashbacks with a nameless, big, grinning chauffeur are among the scariest moments in horror movie history for me.

The film as a whole has a really precarious ambience and creeping mania. It is reminiscent of The Shining, although it came before, and Stephen King himself has claimed that burnt offerings and the novel on which it is based were inspiration for his story. Director Dan Curtis raises the atmosphere and strikes a lot of low shots that make the old rural mansion look gigantic and haunting. The interior of the house is as you would see it if you were asked to close your eyes and imagine an old haunted house. His property is too idyllic not to turn into hell. The unkempt, greenish pool provides Ben with a beautiful setting to turn into a powered maniac in a gripping scene.

 

 

Atmosphere and spectacle make heavy lifting. Oliver Reed and Karen Black don’t need any praise – but I’ll note that Reed plays an intimidating patriarch who is scary to watch as he sinks into madness. The supporting cast, including horror all-star team captain Burgess Meredith, make spooky appearances. Burnt Offerings is a convincing, psychologically motivated, haunting strip, which is good, but it is the aforementioned chauffeur who makes this great horror.

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