A Supernatural Jewish Horror Serves Up Possession Chills
When a horror film drops viewers into an equally creepy location to match its screenplay, an audience knows the frights will soon follow. Oliver Park’s The Offering doesn’t waste any time showing viewers the main location of the film. After a terrifying opening scene setting up lore for the audience, The Offering opens to Art and his wife, Claire, outside his father Saul’s Hasidic family-owned mortuary in Brooklyn. The tension between Claire and Art is tangible. Claire is pregnant and nervous about meeting her father-in-law, and Art, although reassuring, seems nervous as well, but for a reason he’d rather keep hidden. Before The Offering, Oliver Park is known for directing his celebrated horror shorts: Vicious and Still and a chilling episode of Strange Events. He enters feature-length territory and tells a horrifying story of what lurks beneath through the lens of the Jewish Hasidic faith. A film that can be described as a cross between 2019’s The Vigil and 2016’s The Autopsy of Jane Doe: Millennium Media and Nu Boyana Film Studio debuted The Offering on January 13th, 2023, distributed to theaters by Decal.
No One Is Safe In This Supernatural Horror
As many parents would: Saul, intentionally played by Allan Corduner, is pleased and grateful to see his son and his new wife, who is carrying his grandchild. Upon entering, Art and Claire happen upon a wake of sorts, and Claire comments to Art, asking how he grew up like this. This is in a Hasidic funeral home in Brooklyn. Attendees are mourning a certain little girl that, after the opening scene, viewers are now surely weary of. After the awkwardness of the first meetings, made warmer by Saul, the trio gets to know each other. Saul and Claire hit it off and attempt to right past wrongs over a traditional dinner. Claire finds out that her new father-in-law has even attempted to read her articles that she penned. Mysteriously, Art keeps disappearing and taking phone calls that he would rather keep to himself. The viewer eventually finds Art’s underlying intention of coming to the Mortuary he grew up in and reconciling with his father. While understandable, the fact that it is kept under wraps creates a tension that comes to a head later in the film at the most inopportune moment.
Those who work or have been around mortuaries know that it is a surprisingly hopping business even if its guests are no longer doing so. Once Saul’s mortuary receives its first guests of the evening to be processed, one that will be familiar to the audience after the film’s opening scene, The Offering takes this smoking gun and picks up the pace and doesn’t slow down. Saul happily invites his son Art to join him in processing the body and performing the rituals their faith requires upon a passing in the community. Art reluctantly joins and ends up setting in motion the supernatural events that put his entire family in danger. A Yiddish demon is at the center of The Offering and uses the well-known but still effective horror mechanic of creepy children to do its insidious bidding. Park’s film is incredibly atmospheric and quiet in sound design. This ensures that the audience is holding their breath and feels as though they are right there with Art, Claire, and Saul as they experience and try to escape the most terrifying time of their lives. The scares creep onto the screen, explode at their height, and are devastating as this demon doesn’t pick and choose. It is only here to desolate any and everything.
A Small But Talented Cast
A religious possession horror film is difficult for actors no matter the faith presented. The cast of The Offering took what was given to them and excelled in creating their characters for the screen. While some have horror already on their resumes, such as Emily Wiseman, who plays Claire, having been in the 2018 film Winchester. Emily brings strength to this character, enabling her to support her husband but not keeping her from questioning his motives and reality when the time comes. Her fear jumps right off the screen into the viewer’s mind. Playing the mysterious yet caring Arthur is Nick Blood. Nick is no stranger to the screen, having taken on the role of Lance Hunter on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick’s character of Arthur is very multifaceted, and his huge and conflicted emotions of grief, terror, and regret are rivetingly displayed in The Offering. Nick doesn’t hesitate when forced to make a life-changing decision to save his family.
The role of the loving, devout, and determined father, Saul, was cast best to Allan Corduner. Saul’s warmth and desire for forgiveness and new beginnings feel like a good hug upon first meeting him on screen. Audiences can tell that he takes pride in his role in the Jewish community and displays strength in his faith and for his family in the sight of destruction. Saul is a character loved by the audience but smart and all-knowing, just like any father. One character that stands out is Heimish, played brilliantly by Paul Kaye. Holding an impressive resume so far of roles on the mega-hit, Game Of Thrones and the tv show, The Stranger, Kaye commits entirely to the ever-skeptical Heimish. His eagerness toward Saul to see the truth and to be careful evokes his great love for his people straight through the screen. In a tight runtime, Heimish goes through many emotions and conflicts and plays each one to its fullest strength. Rounding out the cast is the skilled Sofia Weldon playing the fated Sarah Scheindal. Having Jolt and The Angel under her belt already, it is no wonder she was chosen to play the embodiment of the demon that haunts the family. Weldon is delightfully creepy, as any child in a horror film should be. While the storyline is simple but horrifying, The Offering is only enhanced by its talented cast.
An Atmosphere Dripping With Dread
Modern horror films use new and old mechanics to draw out their frights. The Offering gives the viewers a bit of both. Perhaps paying homage to nostalgic scares of the writer’s and director’s youths or nightmares. Park and his cinematographer Lorenzo Senatore (Wonder Woman, Spectre, The Hitman’s Bodyguard) create quite a chilling atmosphere. Swinging lights, forced perspective, and clever use of swaying mortuary doors force the viewer to sit in the story, unable to leave, just like Art and Claire. While The Offering does include quite a few jump scares to induce its horrors, they are well-placed and effective. Yet there might be one too many. Keeping to a mostly neutral color palette of mainly blacks, whites, and tans, the bloody gore and bright blues stand out, causing the audience to pay attention. The sound design and music in the film also create a tension-filled atmosphere. Christopher Young, who has an impressive horror resume in the composing space of Sinister, The Grudge, and Swordfish, intentionally uses mighty swells of strings and completely silent moments to take the audience on a horrifying journey. The main antagonist of The Offering haunting all those in its path, regarded as Abyzou, looks surprisingly original yet nostalgically remembered once it shows itself. Certainly horrifying enough to frighten Claire and give viewers a good jump. While the story of The Offering is simple, one thing Oliver Park and his team know how to do is create an absolutely dread-filled atmosphere.
Offering Something For Everyone
If audiences are looking for a modern religious horror that is a fun ride, The Offering is perfect for a once-watch-through. It respects the Hasidic faith and has strong characters that fight until the end. The fantastically creepy atmosphere and lighting choices will frighten all and delight even the most seasoned horror moviegoer. Sticking with and enjoying the story delivers a big payoff at the film’s climax with a wicked twist ending.
The Offering was released in theaters on January 13th, 2023, and can currently be streamed on Hulu. See what souls make it out alive!
The Offering (2023). Official Decal Trailer.
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|Amber is a writer and co-editor for Dead Talk News. Between writing reviews and the latest trailer releases, Amber keeps four tiny humans alive at home. She has previously written for Giant Freakin Robot and will keep going to see every new horror film, no matter what the other moms think.|