It’s been a while since the horror genre has offered fans a good demonic scare. Not really – it’s a genre staple that possesses theatres and streaming platforms at least a few times a year. But so far 2023 has focused on killer dolls (M3gan), apocalyptic visions (Knock at the Cabin), and scary toy phones (Skinamarink). Besides relative newcomer Oliver Park’s The Offering looks to put a cultural twist on a familiar story. Based on Jewish folklore and the legend of the Abyzou, The Offering may find new scares by ‘offering’ a different perspective. To date, critics have been impressed with the results.
Secretly struggling with financial problems, Arthur along with his pregnant wife, Claire, returns to his Hasidic community to make amends with his father. But Arthur’s also hoping to convince his father to sign over the family’s Brooklyn family funeral home and morgue. Yet the couple’s return coincides with several strange deaths plaguing the community. When Arthur inadvertently frees an ancient demon it immediately turns its attention to Claire – and their unborn child.
The Offering a Visually Rich Looking Piece of Supernatural Horror
From its opening scene, director Oliver Park ensures The Offering looks and feels like a first-rate, creepy horror movie. Just by virtue of their nature, funeral homes and morgues are uncomfortable settings. Plenty of effective horror movies – including Phantasm and The Autopsy of Jane Doe – have exploited the setting. In spite of having only a handful of short films under his belt, Park knows his way around the genre. In addition to its overall uneasy atmosphere, The Offering has several well-constructed scares that make good use of the location and lighting. Park even shows some creativity in some of the scene composition that keeps the thriller from settling into familiarity.
In spite of having only a handful of short films under his belt, Park knows his way around the genre.
Thought it’s not a major theatrical release, The Offering never looks like a low-budget indie movie. Across the board, the production values consistently impress, which adds a level of richness to the onscreen story. While its exorcism scene never approaches the heights of classic demonic possession movies, Park crafts enough tension and stakes. Dividing the actions between the exorcism itself and the demon stalking Claire sets this thriller apart just a bit. And the special effects team deserves credit for rendering a convincing and unique looking demonic entity.
The Offering Boasts Strong Performances Amidst a Busy Story
Based on a story by Hank Hoffman and Jonathan Yunger, The Offering benefits heavily from its attention to Jewish folklore and the mythology built around its demon, Abyzou. Like the Keith Thomas’ (Firestarter) Jewish horror movie The Vigil, Hoffman and Yunger avoid falling into derivative territory by situating their supernatural horror in a unique cultural context. If there’s a problem with The Offering it’s that it maybe puts a little too much on its own plate. Tensions between Arthur and his father, conflict with family friend Heimish, secret financial struggles, missing children, and the demonic haunting of Claire spread things a bit thin. Perhaps this is why the thriller often feels a bit emotionally cold and detached. As good as the movie looks, it’s not always emotionally affecting.
If there’s a problem with The Offering it’s that it maybe puts a little too much on its own plate.
Similar to the visuals and production values, all of the performances are excellent. As the conflicted Arthur, Nick Blood (Agents of SHIELD) may actually have the least to do in the supernatural thriller. That is, Hoffman’s screenplay calls for a quiet study in a man pulled in different directions. Conversely, Allan Corduner and Paul Kaye get more opportunities to flex their acting chops with Kaye particularly standing out. Too bad The Offering largely sidelines Emily Wiseman (Claire) because she’s quite good in the final act. As mentioned above, however, The Offering clutters up its own story, leaving Wiseman’s role on the periphery.
The Offering Offers Enough Scares and Unique Spin To Avoid Feeling Derivative
Though it doesn’t necessarily break any new ground, The Offering is a solid, creepy effort that boasts impressive production values. Park and Hoffman’s mixing of a traditional exorcist narrative with Jewish folklore adds just enough new to the thriller to help it stand out. In addition to strong performances, the thriller’s technical aspects – including scares and effects – are impressive. What’s strange about The Offering is that it often feels cold and detached from its own story and characters. Everything looks good, but The Offering rarely gets under you skin enough to rival similar movies.