Wednesday, January 11, 2023

The Offering: Horror in Borough Park

Esoteric Kabbalah famously brought us the Golem, but it can deliver different kinds of horror as well. For instance, a learned scholar inadvertently raises Abyzou, a demon who preys on the unborn. He tried to take the evil entity with him, but the Orthodox mortician and his semi-estranged son do not understand what they are dealing with when they take delivery of his body in Oliver Park’s The Offering, which releases Friday on VOD and in theaters.

For some baffling reason, Arthur decided to pursue a career in real estate rather than work in his father’s mortuary. It sounds like an understandable choice, but it might have been a mistake, considering he is days away from financial ruin. Ostensibly, he has come home to Borough Park with his gentile wife Claire, to reconcile with his father before their baby arrives, but he needs the old man to put up his mortuary as collateral.

Initially, old Saul took the whole marrying out of the faith thing pretty hard, but he has clearly had a change of heart. Now, the old man is decidedly warm and friendly towards Claire and he is delighted to be a grandfather. Unfortunately, Yosille’s body changes everything. The respected scholar tried to resurrect his recently departed wife, through kabbalistic rituals. Instead, he raises Abyzou by mistake. He tried to seal the demon inside his own body, via suicide, but Arthur inadvertently breaks Yosille’s seals, while helping his father with the late-night in-take process. Before long, the demon is terrorizing the fractured family.

The Offering
is a genuinely scary film, very much in the tradition of Keith Thomas’s Jewish-themed The Vigil. Even though it was shot in Bulgaria, Park nicely captures the vibe of Borough Park, Brooklyn. It hangs with many of the best demonic horror films, but its Judaic influences make it particularly distinctive.

Allan Corduner is terrific as old Saul, who also represents a great character. Instead of the stereotypical old codger we expect, he turns out to be a decent man, who is capable of learning from past mistakes. Paul Kaye also stands out as Heimish, Saul’s assistant, who takes perverse satisfaction from needling Arthur. Nick Blood and Emily Wiseman are bit bland as the interfaith couple, but they handle their scenes of freaky chaos quite convincingly.

The conclusion is a bit too much like so many other horror movie endings, but the guts of the film are impressively tense and atmospheric. The year is still young, but there have already been a number of horror films released already. This is one of the best so far, setting a high standard for the legion that will follow. Highly recommended for horror fans,
The Offering starts screening Friday (1/13) at the Lower Manhattan Drafthouse.