Burnt Offerings

Image by mstephens7 via Flickr - That's an image of the house - beautiful isn't it ?

Yesterday I happened on “Burnt Offerings” on my Netflix and decided to watch it.  For some reason, lately I’ve been leaning towards watching older horror movies (ie Poltergeist, Legend of Hell House).  My dad came in while I was watching it and said he remembered it being a really good movie, and I found at the end that he was right.  Incidentally I went to Amazon.com and bought the book while I was watching the movie, so at some point you will see that review here, though just not yet.

I thought the movie was great.  Karen Black played the mother, Oliver Reed was the father, and Lee Montgomery played their 12 year old son.  A nice suprise was an aging Bette Davis as the aunt.  Together the three rent an old house for the summer for only $900, which appears as a steal at first.  The only catch is that they must take care of the reclusive Mrs. Allardyce.  (Karen Black agrees to do that exclusively).  Burgess Meredith and Eileen Heckart play the aging siblings the family rents from.  When they first move in, Black goes crazy cleaning while the rest of the family settles in.  She cleans the whole house from top to bottom while father and son clean out and fill the pool.  The family is very loving and close.

What really sets this movie apart from other haunted house movies I’ve seen is the visible build up of the haunting power.  Its very apparent from the beginning what kind of family they are when they move in, and its interesting to watch them degenerate.  Each person undergoes changes in personality that are very apparent.  The mother becomes obsessed with the care of Mrs. Allardyce (to the exclusion of her own family), the father almost drowns his son in the pool and later tries to rape his suddenly frigid wife, and their aunt becomes forgetful and weak.  She seems to suddenly age.  The young son is not necessarily changed so much as attacked.  It seems like the house isn’t bent on changing him so much as killing him.  In a separate incident, he is almost killed by a gas leak.  The end result is a mixture of death and possession, and while it is in some respects predictable, it still fit the story very well.

The change that becomes apparent in the family members as a result of the haunting occurs at a reasonable pace, neither too quickly, nor too slowly.  In some regards it reminds me of Richard Matheson‘s style of haunting, although his was much more aggressive.

If you’re looking for an interesting horror film and are tired of the Hollywood remakes currently in fashion, you should try “Burnt Offerings”.  I guarantee you won’t be disappointed !