Director: Christopher Reynolds
Year of release: 1989
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 94 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: Both
Tagline: "Remember him before he dismembers you", "When he was a little boy the local kids gave Johnny hell. Now it's his turn" and "Johnny makes you offerings you cannot refuse, severed body parts, fingers, ears, noses...".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: The story here begins with us meeting a troubled young boy by name of John Radley. John seems unable or unwilling to talk and lives with his Mother with whom he shares a fractured and strained relationship. Seen as an outcast among the other kids in the area the only person his own age to show John any kindness is neighborhood girl Gretchen. While out playing with Gretchen John is hassled by a group of local bullying kids who pressure him into walking around the edge of a wishing well. John completes the task only to then fall inside the well after one of the bullies feigns a lunge towards him. Things then flash forward ten years to where we learn that since the incident at the well and apparently killing his Mother soon after John is now confined to a sanitarium. After being kept under a drug induced sedation for much of the intervening years John manages to escape and sets about heading back to his hometown. His intentions to seek vengeance on the now young adults who were responsible for his fall down the well. Gretchen soon finds herself at the center of things as she begins to receive grisly gifts or offerings from John as he goes about his revenge.
Good points: I thought the music in this was really good and it was definitely one of the main positives that stood out for me all the way through the film as I watched it. As with much of what we see in Offerings it is very similar to Halloween to the point of the music almost being a carbon copy in some places so this could rub some the wrong way. Regardless of the similarities though I didn't mind and still enjoyed what I was hearing.
There is a lot of variety in the deaths with I don't think any two being the same. Some of the things we see include a hanging, death by syringe, a beheading and something that features a vice. My favourite I'd say was the where the guy is pulled beneath the bed which I thought had a disconcerting creepy vibe to it.
The Gretchen character as final girl was more than satisfactory to me and I found her to be likeable enough in one of the lead roles. Seeing that it was the actresses first film role and indeed her last film role I felt she did a solid enough job acting wise considering her experience. Her banter with friend Kacy was entertaining I thought. I also enjoyed the Sheriff Chism character. Sure he was inept but police in slashers so often are, part of their charm I suppose but I enjoyed his scenes and also those of his doctor/teacher friend who was cast in the Dr Loomis type role.
I liked the simple story to this, it's very familiar of course with the similarities to Halloween but very fundamentally slasher like as well so a tick in my book. As with the music the fact that this is so heavily influenced storywise by Halloween may instantly turn people off with it being dismissed as a cheap knock off. For me though I'm not bothered by this in the same way that I didn't mind that something like Bloody Murder borrows so much from Friday the 13th. So I liked the story generally, all the Halloween inspired or copied parts included but I also liked how they added a sprinkling of original touches. The obvious one is the offerings of the title in the form of the gifts to Gretchen which shows a different side to John who unlike Myers isn't just a mindless killing machine but still evidently cares in some way for his old friend. There is a little bit of humor in the film as well which though hit and miss does have some positive moments like the comments the kid makes who is caught looking at porn and Kacy's observation to Gretchen while they are watching horror films. They also of course go into more detail with John as a boy than what we see with Myers in Halloween plus there is the idea of Gretchen having a sixth sense. I also enjoyed the use of the wishing well. It was nice that they found a use for it in the present day as well as in the opening scenes from ten years ago. So although the main aspects of the story are very similar to Halloween there are some more original aspects more unique to Offerings as well.
Bad Points: A little surprisingly seeing that they are leaning so heavily on the Halloween template John Radley has no costume or mask which I thought was a let down. To be fair his face does look fairly freaky when fully revealed towards the end but it's no substitute for a mask.
A couple of loose ends were left with two small things going unresolved. We didn't learn what happened to either Gretchen's dog or the pizza delivery man. Instead of Gretchen stumbling across the body of her neighbor towards the end it would have been more logical for her to find the corpse of the pizza guy instead.
Special effects to go with the deaths are virtually non existent. There is only a small amount of blood so it is nowhere near as gory as I would have ideally liked. Small spoiler ahead: One of the deaths though a good idea on paper was a bit confusing to me. With the vice kill in the garage we only saw what was happening towards the end by the shadow/silhouette on the wall and from watching that I thought John was hitting Tim's arm or torso with a hammer as opposed to tightening the vice until his head exploded which is presumably what he was doing in hindsight. It looked like he was using a hammer though not operating the vice so I wasn't sure what had happened when the head popped. I guess he could have been hitting the vice handle with the hammer once it got too stiff to turn by hand but it wasn't presented very clearly.
It would have bee nice to have had it explained as well how John was able to sustain so much damage such as multiple gun shots and the electrified fence not effecting him. Having said this lots of slashers feature a killer who seems nearly indestructible so I can't be too harsh on this score. They could have offered an explanation though as to why his face was all disfigured. It looked more like puckered burn scars to me instead of possible impact damage from falling down the well. They should have shown a bit more footage with him as a boy as well with him being pulled out of the well and then soon after turning on his Mother. As they didn't it came out of left field a bit when they just randomly told us he had killed her and then snacked on her remains.
The characters of the grave digger and the cop who was doing surveillance on the girls were too over the top and silly for my taste. Thought they should have played it more straight with these two, certainly with the cop anyway.
Though I liked the idea of Gretchen's sixth sense I didn't feel that it was utilised as much as it could have been. I think they could have made a point of it say two more times, firstly by having Gretchen have a bad feeling that something terrible was happening around he time her boyfriend was being killed. Secondly and more importantly it could have been worked into the final scenes somehow when she and Kacy were alone in the house. Perhaps John could have been hiding somewhere about to jump out on the girls to get at Kacy only for Gretchen to sense he was there and lead her friend temporarily to safety.
More effort to explain how Gretchen was now friends with the bullies would also have been welcome. A comment from one of the bullies at the start in the part where they were all kids would have done the trick. Upon finding Gretchen playing with John one of them could have said "Hey Gretchen you were cool yesterday when we were all together at the mall but now we find you hanging with this looser. What gives"? Just a little something like that would have made it known that she was kind of friendly with everyone and would sometimes spend time with the more popular kids as well. On the same topic of these early scene with the young kids it reminded me of a film I reviewed a while ago called Hallows Eve in that it didn't do enough to establish the names and personalities of the bullies early on. Because these early parts were rushed a bit it meant that later when they were being killed off as older teens we couldn't really relate them very well to the kids we saw at the start. They may as well have just been random neighborhood teenagers.
Verdict: Arriving very late in the day during the eighties this entry into the slasher genre isn't too fondly remembered among all the other titles of that time especially taking into account the similarities with Halloween which would perhaps leave a lot of people disgruntled. I didn't think it was that bad though, about average really and I actually enjoyed the Halloween inspired plot and music. It was nice to see a few original touches thrown into the mix as well even if some of them should have been expanded on more. The lack of any proper gore and the fact that there is no mask did put a dampener on things though. Prior to seeing it I had read a few really bad reviews for this but all in all I felt it was okay and was no where near as bad as I had feared. I would watch it again for sure and perhaps even upgrade to the recent blu ray release seeing that my copy is an old DVD that doesn't have the best picture quality.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1) Nurse: Syringe stuck into her head after being lifted from the floor and throttled.
2) Tim: Head popped due to being crushed in a vice.
3) Linda: Strangled from behind while in her car. I think it was parts of her body which later turned up on the pizza.
4) Gretchen's boyfriend: Pulled underneath his bed and shot with rifle.
5) Kacy's boyfriend: Hung from rooftop.
6) Teacher/doctor: Bludgeoned with flashlight.
7) Kacy: Stabbed and then later was decapitated off camera as we see John holding her head.
8) Policeman: Found dead with what looked to be a long nail stuck in his head.
9) Gretchen's neighbor: Found dead with throat slit.
10) John Radley: Shot by Gretchen multiple times with a handgun and then by Sheriff Chism with a shotgun.