Even in the seemingly endless combinations and reconfigurations of tropes that make up horror B-movies, there occasionally needs to be some new input. Dusty old pentagrams and declarations of “The power of Christ compels you!” can only last so long in such a fast-moving genre, and with his horror flick The Offering, Oliver Park draws on a source of inspiration that is getting more and more airtime in modern horror: Judaism. Following the son of a Hasidic funeral director and his pregnant wife as they attempt to reconcile with his family, only to be preyed upon by a spirit hungry for the blood of children, The Offering is the latest entry in the emerging sub-genre of Jewish horror. In recent years, the sub-genre has offered up works as disparate as Marcin Wrona’s 2015 masterpiece Demon, Keith Thomas’ crowd-pleasing chamber-horror The Vigil, and queer drama Attachment; with The Offering, Jewish horror proves that it can achieve the same as most horror B-movies: trash status.
With expositional set-dressing operating on a level of subtlety akin to A Quiet Place, a glacial first half, and uniformly bland performances, The Offering makes more of an argument against Jewish horror than it does for it. The film’s Jewish elements mostly feel disposable, as though transplanted straight from theology and folklore into a narrative without much consideration for why or how they might be most effective. Judaism seems to be a shortcut for Park and writer Hank Hoffman to establish Old World-inspired fear within the New World, an enclave of spiritualism and tradition cast against modernity. But the film doesn’t seem overly concerned with actually using any of its rich setting or lore, instead resorting to dull jumpscares and other tired tropes of occult horror. From a lazily designed creepy child to the piles of books and tapes our protagonist must search through to piece together the puzzle, The Offering doesn’t even really update its clichés for its specific setting, instead recycling imagery from its predecessors without any real effort put into making those images actually work. In fairness, like most B-movies, The Offering does have at least one great jumpscare — a delightfully mean-spirited and visceral thrill when the creature digs its claws into a pregnant belly — but that gnarly bit of ruthlessness can’t stop the film from falling flat. It’s certainly never scary enough to move viewers to the edge of their seats, and rarely even interesting enough to keep anyone’s attention.
Published as part of InRO Weekly — Volume 1, Issue 2.