Retro Review: BURNT OFFERINGS (1976)

Another Retro Review? In less than four weeks??? Something must be wrong with me… – Bleeding Dead

In Burnt Offerings Marian and her husband Ben decide to spend their summer being the caretakers of a Victorian mansion in the countryside. In viewing the elaborate house and meeting the owners, the Allardyce siblings, the couple are torn in impression. Ben is wary about the low price to watch the house and the responsibility of watching over their elderly mother that comes with, where as Marian is entranced by it’s august history and more than willing to take on the woman. With Marian’s side winning the couple move in with their son, Davy, and Ben’s Aunt Elizabeth. Their stay though doesn’t intend to be normal long as things begin to get strange very quickly. The first being that Marian has assumed much responsibility and delusion in being the watcher of Mrs. Allardyce, whom of which is never seen. As well as a deep love of the house itself and it’s ancient pieces. What may prove even more strange though is how the house’s broken interior and exterior is repairing itself parallel to when accidents start happening to the family.

I beg do all haunted house film start the same? It seems there’s no exception as a move to a new house always asks the question, is it haunted? There’s few films that really are the embodiment of the word creepy and I’ll attribute Burnt Offerings to be one of them. Among moments the pool scene, the funeral chauffeur (forget that smile), and the ending are quite disquieting. The film relies on the suspense, as that’s generally what it consist of, not too many scary or horrifying moments happen until the very last five minutes. But the suspense locks you, when Ben walks up the stairs to Mrs Allardyce rooms in the final moments of the film it’s nearly too much to bare.

Bette Davis is a delight, her little presence on screen is more than enough to satisfy. The house has direct effect to Ben and Marian and for the most part ignores Davy. As Marian becomes more blissful in the house it quickly wears on Ben. She proves as an annoyance as her overtly joyful disposition and almost ignorance to the horrors of the house grows. However Karen Black does it well and does feel very lost in the grand house. She’s also a tantalizing mix of beautiful and scary as she becomes the caretaker. Oliver Reed is also good as Ben, though Ben has that unfortunate bend as being a victim to the house and is often yelling about the odd happenings that occur. The film has a foggy grain about its images which creates a musty feel to the house and the air about it. The score seems to disappear as the film treads on but in the beginning it was a good chill for the scenes of tension.

The film runs a bit long, especially for it’s short climax. A lot of people probably won’t tolerate the slow build and will give in before the ending, which was the best part of the film. I felt the hints in which Stephen King picked up from for his novel The Shinning, that obsession of being the caretaker of the house bowers both Marian and Jack Torrance. As well as in his teleplay for Rose Red, especially in how the house repairs itself but not in the remittance of blood. It starts as a typical haunted house film but changes game mid way and comes into its own. Like The Shinning it’s madness that haunts the family, not ghost, giving it a fresh and unique feel to the sub-genre.  I enjoyed Burnt Offerings as it was recommended to me by our editor Sam Santiago, but I do not think its for everyone. You must be patient with it’s build or you’ll miss a really great ending.

Like what you see? Be sure to also visit Pissed Off Geek too for more news and reviews with a horrific edge. To stay up to date with the latest horror news and reviews from the site be sure to "like" Truly Disturbings's Facebook page and following us on Twitter!

  1 comment for “Retro Review: BURNT OFFERINGS (1976)

  1. May 17, 2012 at 12:30 AM

    Been a long time since I’ve seen this. Might have to dig it out of my collection for a rewatch soon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *