The Offering 2023 Movie Review
In the film, a now disbelieving son returns from London to visit his father in his Brooklyn Orthodox community, with his non-Jewish pregnant wife at his side. Unbeknownst to the couple, a corpse recently moved to the family funeral morgue harbors an ancient demon named Abyzou, whose favorite snack is small children.
Aside from my confusion and frustration with the film’s bizarre handling of Jewish burial practices, I was pleased with the cast of Hasidic Orthodox characters. The austere “penguin” stereotype is avoided, with a range of personalities from an open-minded, loving father, a keen eye for the esoteric Jewish arts, and the Hasidic “bad boy,” complete with the permanent toothpick in his mouth.
In the first half of the film, these characters evoke the feeling that director Oliver Park wants to convey a unique vision. But suddenly the film inexplicably chooses to focus on the painfully dull son and his wife, losing yet another piece of character. Gradually I became frustrated with the erasure of every bit of personality. The presence of a visible Jewish home, Jewish prayers, Yiddish jargon, and so on turned out to be merely cosmetic.
In the sea of modern horror movie clichés used in this film—the hollow jump-scares, the blue hue, and the irritating character decisions—I looked for a clever use of the Jewish themes. The family drama of a son leaving the faith and marrying a non-Jew, no doubt relatable to those coming from Jewish families and perhaps even beyond, made me hope that this would be a source of horror. After all, Jewish mythology is truly fantastically creepy, mysterious, and ripe for harvesting by horror writers and directors, but we’re still waiting for a movie that does what HEREDITARY(2018) with Paimon did. That is, use mythology to say something about tradition, solitude, family, and other dark corners of the human experience.
That said, there’s nothing wrong with making Abyzou (a demon with a very interesting mythology, I found out googling after the movie) more like the nun from THE CONJURING universe – just a creepy creature who hangs out on dark places. As such, it’s not a poorly made movie. Superficial and unobtrusive; the most special thing about THE OFFERING is actually how the film manages to avoid anything that could make it unique or memorable.