The Horror Honeys: The House Takes Care of Itself...

The House Takes Care of Itself...

A Supernatural Honey Review by Suzanne

Burnt Offerings (1976)

As the Supernatural Honey, I’ve seen my fair share of haunted house movies. Some are good, some are bad, and some are downright deplorable, but every now and again, one will exceed every expectation. For me, one of the best is Burnt Offerings

Ben and Marion Rolf, along with their son Davey and Aunt Elizabeth, leave the city for the summer and rent a dilapatated mansion in the country from Roz and Arnold Allardyce. The price is too reasonable and there is a catch. They must look after “mother.”

Almost immediately, the house begins to come alive as the Rolfs get to cleaning and repairing, but it starts to have a strange effect on Ben and Marion. Ben has visions of a creepy hearse driver stalking him and Marion becomes obsessed with Mrs. Allardyce. They turn on each other and as everyone’s physical and mental health deteriorate, the house regenerates, restoring itself to it’s original grandeur.

The real villain in this movie is the house, however, none of it would work without superb acting.
Oliver Reed and Karen Black star and make a super sexy couple. With a supporting cast featuring the likes of Bette Davis, Burgess Meredith, and Eileen Heckart, you just can’t go wrong. Black, who is a horror staple, is sublime as Marion. Her transformation from unsatisfied housewife to mansion matriarch is subtle and unsettling. Reed’s propensity for the overly dramatic works to his advantage here.

"Did the Assistant Director just touch my bum? I do believe he did! The scamp!"
Burnt Offerings is filled with some terrifying moments, such as Ben trying to drown Davey in the pool, Aunt Elizabeth meeting her demise, and a very unhappy ending. Perhaps the most unsettling moment occurs after Elizabeth’s death; the house begins to shed its “skin” and new shingles and siding replace the old. Ben attempts to leave with Davey, but the house prevents them from going, forcing Ben into a catatonic state.

Never sneak up on Bette Davis! NEVER!
The effects are extremely well done, practical and believable. The score is a bit TV movie of the week, with the exception of composer Robert Cobert’s music box lullaby that is as creepy as they come.

Dry Oliver Reed, wet Oliver Reed... it all works.
Based on the novel by Robert Marasco, which is a great read (I own two copies), and directed by Dan Curtis (Trilogy of Terror), Burnt Offerings gets very little love outside of hardcore horror fans, possibly because it lacks the violence and gore people have become accustomed to. The movie is a very close adaptation of the book, although the ending is different.

This is a classic haunted house film, rife with tension rather than jump scares, and void of silly props. So if you like your horror a bit smarter and more subtile, this is a solid pick. 

Fun fact - While the story takes place in New York, the movie was filmed at the Dunsmuir House in Oakland, CA. This house was also used in Phantasm as Morningside Mortuary.

Supernatural Honey Rating ~ 4 Bette Davis eyes out of 5

Burnt Offerings is available on Netflix DVD, Amazon Instant Video, & DVD

Have you seen this 70s haunted classic?
Talk with Suzanne about it on Twitter: @suzebee04