Tuesday, April 10, 2018

OFFERINGS (1989) (88 Films Blu-ray Review)

Label: 88 Films 
Region Code: B
Rating: Cert. 18
Duration: 94 Minutes
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio: English LPCM 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Director: Christopher Reynolds
Cast: Loretta Leigh Bowman, Elizabeth Greene, G. Michael Smith

Synopsis: If the slasher film formula teaches us anything it is not to bully a young child because, chances are, they might grow up to slice, stab and slaughter those who once wronged them. And from Jason Voorhees to PROM NIGHT (1980) and the late eighties shocker OFFERINGS there is one thing for sure - the body count is going to build and build as an adult avenger takes on a slasher rampage of their own! Released in 1989, the blood-splashed classic OFFERINGS serves up a small town revenge-rampage that is among the genre's most madcap and mesmerising. A perfect example of videotape-era terror, with a knife-wielding avenger that is guaranteed to provoke a spine-tingling reaction, this darkly comic - and proudly plasma-packed - example of teen-tormeting excellence has finally arrived back onto UK shelves in horrible HD courtesy of the controversy-courters at 88 Films!

Few films are brave enough, or dumb enough, to borrow so liberally from an iconic movie the way Offerings (1989) does from John Carpenter's seminal Halloween (1978), this lo-fi slasher re-hash borrows from it the way a bad housemate helps himself to your food in the fridge. If this film were a person it would definitely use your toothbrush when you're not home and it wouldn't even rinse it off afterward, son-of-a-bitch.  

The originality disadvantaged film begins with a troubled child named John Bradley who lives with his horrible mom, a mom so bereft of paternal instinct that she routinely compares him to his deranged father who tried to slit her throat, and she's got the scar to prove it. She also calls him out for being cruel to animals, having found the corpse of his dismembered turtle in the bottom of the rubbish bin, but not in a let's get you some help sort of way. As bad as her mental and physical cruelty is though, in my opinion her worst offense is that she purposely flicks the ash from her cigarette directly into his scrambled eggs while she's cooking them on the stove, now that's just straight-up-nasty! 

Anyway, his mom doesn't want him hanging out with the neighbor girl Gretchen, who's pretty much the only decent person in his life. I almost forgot, the kid's a mute kid too, he doesn't speak which makes him a popular target for the neighborhood bullies, one day while playing checkers with Gretchen a group of bullies arrives on their bicycles and challenge him to "walk the well", which is a local rite-of-passage wherein you walk around the edge of a water well. When I was a kid we had the "tunnel of hell" in Willard, New York, a storm drain across the street from the local sub shop that went below the local psychiatric center, and it was scary as shit. While performing the challenge he's pushed inside and falls to the bottom, apparently causing some horrific head injuries. Flash forward ten years and Radley's been incarcerated at an asylum, we're informed that he murdered his mom years ago, for which I hold no malice against him for that one, that despicable woman had it coming, who puts ashes in their children's eggs!?! We don't get the specifics of how it all went down but it all leads up the night he escapes from the asylum to return home, where he wastes no time exacting revenge on the childhood bullies who were cruel to him in the past and responsible for his injuries. 

This sucker hits so many of the same notes as Halloween (1978) that it's nearly a parody, we have a fucked-up kid who murders a family member, in the aftermath he's sent to the asylum, years later he escapes asylum and returns home to have his revenge against the locals. Damn, we even have a Dr. Loomis character by way of a college professor Jim (Jerry Brewer) who is revealed to have been Radley's former therapist at the asylum, this character also visiting a cemetery where Radley's mom is buried, including the weird cemetery landscaper and a desecrated gravestone. It doesn't stop there folks, we have a determined local cop Sheriff Chism (G. Michael Smith), and a now teen-aged Gretchen (Loretta Leigh Bowman) as the girl he's mysteriously drawn towards, plus a soundtrack that so closely apes the Halloween score that it's charming in a hipster-ish "I hope Waxwork Records puts this out on vinyl soon" sort of way, which could very well have happened already for all I know.

Now don't get me wrong, this is not a good movie, this thing is a straight-up dud with some serious pacing issues, and it's ugly, it looks incredibly cheap (because it is), and the story beats are so familiar - yet nowhere near as effective, I found myself wondering why I even continued watching. Almost from the get-go I was drifting away from the movie, I truthfully fell asleep twice the first time around. The mere fact that you can recreate the same story beats of a classic film does not mean you're anywhere near capable of making a film on the same level, and to be fair I don't think he thought he could, Reynolds is just paying homage to a classic film which he is obviously a huge fan of. 

On that note there's some fun to be had if you squint really hard, there are enough stray original ideas, or at least ideas stolen from other movies that are not Halloween, to (almost) keep it from being a straight-up rip-off. Before I had a chance to see the film I always assumed this was a xmas slasher, the key art would seem to indicate that, but in reality "offerings" is alluding to the fact that mute-slasher Radley has a habit of dismembering his victims and leaving body parts like a finger and a nose at Gretchen's front door as a token of his affection, before tossing their bodies down a familiar well, sort of like a cat bringing you a dead mouse. One of the more memorable humorous scenes involves the cop catching a kid looking at a porn mag in the old Radley home (another lift from Halloween, the house, not the porn mag), when he asks him what his name is the kid says it's "Ben Dover", a few seconds later the slow-witted cop puts two and two together and calls out to the boy who's running in the opposite direction, now flipping him the bird in the process. 

The character of Radley as played by the director's brother-in-law Richard A. Buswell (C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America) is a portly guy, he doesn't wear a mask but his face is scarred, though you don't see it a whole lot. He also has the Michael Myers walk down cold, he's a mute and emotionless by design but he just doesn't offer much of a presence. The kills are super-tame with only splashes of blood with no visceral gore, the dismembered body parts looking like cheap costume-store novelties dipped in 99 cent store fake blood. A few of the murders are decently staged though, we have a nurse who gets a syringe plunged straight through her forehead, and two of the childhood bullies are dispatched decently enough, including an elaborate lasso trick and the classic let's hide under the bed and pull the guy under move, but they're mostly bloodless, you don't see anyone die in any sort of graphic way. Maybe worse than all that is that we don't get any 80's slasher nudity, which was the whole reason I started watching slasher films to begin with as a kid, so that was a letdown. 

Audio/Video: Slasher-clunker Offerings (1989) arrives on Blu-ray from UK distributor 88 Films on region-b locked Blu-ray with a new 2K restoration from the original 16mm negative. I've previously only seen this one on Amazon Prime, a full-frame slice of slasher ugliness for sure, but here we have a proper widescreen presentation framed in 1.78:1. but this thing was never gonna look great, let's be honest. The colors are subdued, grain is clumpy, and there's some artifacting that pops up throughout, and lighting is bad which creates poor contrast. That being said, yeah, this is probably about as good as it's gonna get for this turkey on Blu-ray. 

Audio comes by way of an uncompressed LPCM 2.0 track that like the lensing is not amazing, there's hiss and muffled dialogue, though the synth-score from Russell D. Allen (Blood Lake) comes through nicely, a melange of stolen stinger phrasings from John Carpenter and the occasional lift from Charles Bernstein's A Nightmare on Elm Street

Extras for this one are slim, we get just a trailer for the film and a commentary from The Hysteria Continues Podcast crew who give a very candid and honest appreciation of this one, they're always a fun listen, knowledgeable and witty, you should check out their podcast of you don't subscribe already.  

The single-disc Blu-ray comes housed in a red Blu-ray with a sleeve of reversible artwork, the a-side is the tradition blood-soaked gift artwork and a numbered spine - this being #36 in the Slasher Classics Collection, the b-side is the same minus the rating certification and the "slasher classics collection" banner and numbering on the spine. The spine and back sleeve are also different as well, and the disc features the same key art as the sleeve. 

Special Features: 

- Brand New 2K Restoration from the Original 16mm Negative
- Audio Commentary by the Slasher Loving Podcast, The Hysteria Continues
- Trailer
- Reversible Sleeve with alternate artwork

Offerings (1989) is a no-budget slice of slasher-trash but I do find it's flagrant infringement on Carpenter's seminal slasher to be sort of charming in a "are they really doing that?" sort of way. If you're a connoisseur of low-budget regional film-making and/or poorly-made SOV slashers this probably has more to offer you than it would the average franchise-horror fan, we're a special breed. 

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