23
Oct
09

Horror Movies on DVD Review: Burnt Offerings

burnt_offerings

 

Thank God it’s ‘only a movie, only a movie, only a movie…’

Starring Oliver Reed, Karen Black, Bette Davis, and Burgess Meredith. Directed by Dan Curtis. Based on the novel by Robert Marasco.

The DVD should be a ‘burnt offering.’

The Rolf Residence (Ben, Marian, and Davey) are looking for a place to hang out for the summer. Answering a classified ad they happen upon a large mansion in the countryside watched over by an old woman (Eileen Heckart) and her wheelchair-bound brother (Burgess Meredith). The propose renting the house for the summer for $900 (price not adjusted for inflation since 1976). The Rolfs take a day to think it over and –what the heck- they return. The sister tells Marian (Black) that an older sister lives upstairs and needs to be fed three times a day. This older sister mainly sleeps all day, doesn’t want to be disturbed, and she can leave the tray of food out for her. Those are the only conditions.

The Bro and Sis leave and the Rolfs move in, quickly finding out that while the interior does have its antiques and a large photo collection, the fridge and icebox are fully stocked. A bargain if they ever knew one. Along with them is Aunt Elizabeth (Davis), a happy old woman wanting to kick back, do some painting, and smoke. None of them know or realize the terror that ploddingly awaits them.

The unknown, unspeakable terror residing in the house (where most terrors of the kind do) begins affecting Ben (Reed). He begins having dreams about a creepy chauffeur (Anthony James) at a funeral he attended as a boy. When his son Davey (Lee Montgomery) decides to go for a swim in the pool, he begins playing around with him only to constantly dunk him to the point of drowning. This drives him to smoke, keep his distance, and begin questioning staying at the house.

Marian begins acting strange as well. She spends more time caring for an old woman that no one gets to see (not even the audience) than about what’s going on with her family. Ben tries to get romantic in the pool with her and she pushes away. When they try to “do the do” on the front lawn she sees a light coming from the old woman’s room and freaks out. As the song says, “no sugar tonight.”

Aunt Elizabeth isn’t holding up too well, either. A tiff develops between her and Marian. She goes from “smoking and carefree” to “tired and lethargic” finally settling on “back broken and rendered immobile by an unseen force.” Ben has decided that the family’s gotta get gone.

Which is easier thought than done. While they did make a trip away from the house for Aunt Elizabeth’s funeral, Marian isn’t 100% sure that the house is the malevolent force behind everything. Then again, dressing as a turn-of-the-century woman, Marian isn’t 100% there to begin with. Ben wants to leave, Davey wants to make sure mom’s coming along, and Marian wants to stay. What follows isn’t so much terror as just a long way to go to wrap up a story.

In my version of Hell, I’m pretty sure this is playing and I have to be locked-down like Alex in “Clockwork Orange,” forced to watch. As far as the “evil spirits in house” movies go, there are a lot better ones (as of this writing, “Paranormal Activities”). The movie is slow, plodding, and severely uneven. Davey can’t decide which parent he’s for or against in any one scene. Marian, at the end of the movie, looks and acts like Marian at the beginning of the movie. The circa-Seventies cream-colored filters don’t help anything out. Did I already mention it was slow?

My grade: D

Hor-O-Meter Level: -2 (there is no obligatory quote for negative numbers)

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