Burnt Offerings

by bloodyrenn

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My days have been rather busy as of late but I figured it was about time I contribute another review to my blog here as it’s been a bit too long since the last entry, unfortunately.  I was in the mood for a haunted house flick yesterday and decided to give Burnt Offerings, a little gem from the mid 70s, a spin.  Let me start by saying that if you’re one for fast-paced, gore-drenched, boob-flashing horror and said films alone than I strongly suggest you stay as far away from Burnt Offerings as you can for it is a film rooted in traditions rather than the contemporaries of its time.  Indeed, by the time the mid-70s had rolled around there were all kinds of nasty flicks floating about so, in a sense, Burnt Offerings would have been better off coming out during a time when the audience’s senses weren’t bludgeoned by films like The Last House On The Left and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  Burnt Offerings, as you could anticipate, was poorly received by critics (not that that really matters) at the time of its release but has since gained some favor amongst horror fans, myself included.

Burnt Offerings is, on the surface, a classic haunted house picture that takes place in a foreboding, melancholic and ornate mansion where the feelings of isolation and tension grow throughout every frame of the film.  As I hinted at earlier, the pacing of Burnt Offerings may seem a bit slow for those who prefer 90 minute screamfests but the pacing actually compliments the film’s atmosphere of a family’s sanity slowly spiraling out of control tremendously.  Dan Curtis, perhaps best known for his series Dark Shadows, has a very traditional sense of cinematic composition and this shines quite beautifully throughout Burnt Offerings – all of the scenes have a certain elegance about them which is in-part due to how the film is shot, no doubt.  The acting in Burnt Offerings is also rooted in classic tradition which certainly isn’t hard to believe with names like Oliver Reed, Burgess Meredith and Karen Black attached to it; Reed’s performance as an intense, serious man is as convincing as ever and Black’s portrayal of an impressionable and dutiful product of her time is excellent as well.  Burnt Offering’s minimal, eerie and ever-appropriate score deserves a special mention also – it’s quite appropriate and contributes to the film’s aesthetic nicely.

If you’re a fan of more traditional horror and like a good haunted house movie than Burnt Offerings should be right up your alley.  For what the film lacks in gore and intensity it makes up for with a great sense of tension and an impenetrable atmosphere that is about as good as it gets for this sort of film, championed perhaps only by Medak’s The Changeling from 1980 (which I am a rather big fan of).  All-in-all, Burnt Offerings is a solid flick that I am glad I finally decided to watch; recommended!

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