If The Offering is truly Singapore’s first Hollywood horror film, officials might want to call a mulligan on that footnote.
Filmmaker Kelvin Tong is no stranger to scares (having directed 2005’s The Maid), but his latest thriller struggles to find individuality amidst a hodgepodge of US influences. Entire scenes can be classified as homages to popular American haunters, where “homage” is a nice term for “egregious ripoff.” The Conjuring, The Exorcist, and a billion movies in between help shape Tong’s vision, which is nothing but a reference-fueled grab-bag of unconnected dots. If you’ve seen ANY horror movie – like, ever – then you’ve probably already seen some portion of The Offering.
It all begins when Jamie (Elizabeth Rice), a young journalist, is pulled to Singapore by the death of her sister Anna (Rayann Condy). The local coroner blames suicide, but Jamie refuses to believe her sister would commit such a sin. Anna’s daughter, Katie (Adina Herz), seems to be having her own issues with Anna’s passing, and continually states that her mother will return seven days later. Jamie doesn’t know what to make of the child’s claim, until Anna’s death is tied to a string of corpses and an unbelievable conspiracy. With time running out, Jamie and Anna’s ex-husband (Matthew Settle) must expose the evils at work and save humanity from unfathomable torture, or risk becoming another statistic – just like Anna.
For about ten whole minutes, The Offering is a freakishly fun possession flick. For the other hour-and-twenty minutes? Tedium. Pure, recycled tedium. What we have here is a classic case of wooden acting, unearned scares and lackluster effects for a production of this value. As Tong’s plot thickens, it’s as if coherency is abandoned for the “scariest” possible idea in a single moment. One minute Katie sees a ghost, while the next Sam faces a sharp-toothed demon who appears only once. There’s talk of Satanic lackeys using binary code, a pastor’s undying guilt, a demon’s rise, and a house with a haunted past – basically, Tong hurls whatever plot content he can against the proverbial wall, hoping something – ANYTHING – sticks.
Even worse, Tong’s best moments are ripped from the frames of better, more creative predecessors. There’s no way The Offering mimicked James Wan’s basement exorcising (The Conjuring) without paying licensing fees, and the same can be said for Katie twisting her head like Regan from The Exorcist. Plus, evil spirits are simply painted with grey makeup to indicate their hellish turn (The Grudge), which appears to be thickly shellacked on each actor’s face. Any grains of “originality” get lost amidst a billion undefined storytelling devices, and whenever something interesting DOES happen, we can’t help but remember where Tong ripped his most recent “inspiration” from.
Performance wise, The Offering sacrifices many actors to an unworthy cause. None of the characters seem particularly spooked by obvious, life-threatening events happening under their very roof. Like, say, A F@*KING LEVIATHAN BEING RESURRECTED IN KATIE’S BASEMENT. Instead of running, or calling for the Ghostbusters, Sam simply states that everyone has to leave – then proceeds to leave Katie on the couch while he gathers some things. An actual f*&^ing demon materialized in front of you, DIDN’T KILL YOU (?!?!?!), and you’re just going to gather some things IN THE HOUSE SAID DEMON JUST APPEARED IN. This is the dumbfounding brand of logic that plagues The Offering and all its characters, none of whom are very charismatic, or seem startled by the otherworldly dangers threatening their lives.
In the end, The Offering does boast some unique ideas, but none of them are elevated through execution. You’ll be scared by obvious genre tactics, and confused by a story that constantly shifts with its mundane surroundings. Nothing feels particularly inspired, from a handful of lackadaisical effects to an extremely The–Forest-like setup, as Tong essentially assembles a dulled-down highlight reel of horror years passed. You’ve seen this film a thousand times over – no need to make it one-thousand-and-one.
The Offering is a bland rehash of "inspirations" from past horror films, none of which are re-imagined with much to offer.