By: The Cinephiliac (Five Beers) –
The Bible makes for one fantastic piece of literature to read. It’s filled with epic battles, tremendous imagery, life lessons, and enough rules and regulations to make you fear that your every step is being judged by an angry man above the clouds. Among the many awesome anecdotes featured in The Bible, the Tower of Babel is one of the more intriguing ones of the Old Testament. It tells the story of how everyone on Earth once spoke the same language, then decided to build a tower to make a name for themselves. God couldn’t have this of course, when would they talk to him if they were all talking to each other? Instead God decides to confuse them by changing everyone’s tongue to a new language, making it so they can’t communicate with each other anymore. Never mind those pesky questions about them learning each other’s languages or what communication was like when they went back home to their families; the take-away here is that the all-Powerful reigned down his authority.
And to think, according to the good book man once lived in harmony with one another. God chose otherwise.
Somehow from this story, writer/director Kelvin Tong got the idea to make a horror film surrounding a daft concept that begins when Jamie is beckoned to Singapore after the suicide of her sister. Somehow the ghost of an evil dude who summoned a demon decides to build a tower using technology (0s and 1’s) and prompting mass suicide among the physically sick and weak. Or maybe I just didn’t understood any of it the way Tong may have hoped his audience would.
I’m all for films that embrace and blend the notion of disease with ghastly horror. Disease in itself is a terrifying reality that forces us to confront the idea of death at the mere mention of certain disease’s names. A few films throughout the past (The Brood, The Taking of Deborah Logan, Repulsion) have tackled the possibility of disease manifesting itself into horrific, manifested apparitions. Here, in The Offering, there is a hint of this as Huntington’s Disease sits at the forefront of conversation. The degenerative disease has slipped its way through Jamie’s family tree. The disease and its effects gets discussed numerous times, presenting audiences with an awareness of it that may not have been there before.
Not a symptom of Huntington’s Disease, but a symptom of most of the pharmaceutical drugs on the market.
But, it’s a bummer when a film presents a fascinating idea only to trip over the presentation and poorly butcher the meat of the story. The Offering is a smoothie of unoriginal delivery with chunks of predictability and confusion. The story looses its steam in part due to the multiple situations taking place at once. A priest doubting himself after a botched exorcism, a woman facing the possibility of death, a child dealing with post-traumatic stress, a code-writing priest, and a bunch of suicides. On top of all of this is a ghost story with religious undertones attempting to unfold. Tong’s convoluted script makes The Offering feel like the remnants of pieces of spaghetti thrown against the wall.
The Offering isn’t unique in any way. It’s one of the more atypical horror films I’ve ever seen. It’s a “by the books” type of film that uses all the motifs in its genre with effortless ease. As an exorcism film, it’s sure to borrow from nearly every single exorcism movie that ever was without any shred of originality or pizzazz added to it. When the goal of scenes are to act as a possession film, the guidelines are followed to a dull T. A possessed girl crawling on the ceiling: check. A head spinning all the way around: check. Bugs coming out of someone’s mouth: check. A creepy telescope encouraging characters to look through only to reveal something jump-worthy immediately after: check and yawn.
Pretty much a carbon copy of every exorcism on screen.
Even the picture quality is weak and in-adulating. Tong’s shaky use of handheld cameras and the mix of 0’s and 1’s puts the film in a box somewhere between The Conjuring and The Matrix. Director of photography Wade Muller adds a layer of blandness to the screen by making every room a half-lit area void of any lively color. The color of the film gets drained for the sake of promoting a cold, ghostly aesthetic. It may work in that regard, just as it works to dull the eyes and interest in the film.
The Offering feel like it suffers most from an identity crisis. In its inability to embrace either the exorcism genre or the paranormal genre it creates a jumbled mess where the villain seems to be ghosts of abusive dads. Maybe Satan actually? Or the Loch Ness monster perhaps? For not wholeheartedly sticking with exorcism, The Offering’s God vs. the Devil religious death match gets scraped and flicked off to the side. Furthermore, by dipping a hand into the paranormal pool it forces a half-baked backstory of two ghostly characters we never fully understand or care for. In fact, their mere presence in the film feels like a plot device that’s meant to hurry the scares along.
The Offering is a stale piece of popcorn or that warm beer you left sitting out all night. It’s not something you necessarily want, but if you’re drunk enough or bored enough you just might do it. The Offering is far from the worst horror movie, but it barely makes it to average horror movie status. Watch with discretion and lots of booze.
Take a Sip: every time you see the symbol
Take a Sip: every time we watch someone commit an act of suicide.
Chug: every time someone mentions “seven days.”
Do a Shot: for every horror film The Offering reminds you of
Take a Sip: whenever you see the face of a ghost.