What is the appeal of Disneyland? Is it that giant squeaky voiced rodent that doesn’t wear a shirt or the duck with the speech impediment that wears no pants? Personally, I find the whole thing a bit too “greasy guy in a van with candy” creepy. I blame Epcot Center. It’s Disney’s 1984 version of our supposed current future world where everyone owns a jet pack, and has a time share on a space station. Well, I still haven’t gotten my jet pack or personal robot assistant but now I can shop from the comfort of my underwear, and watch re-runs of Frasier anytime on my computer. That is technological progress! They also have multiple countries crammed together just begging to break out into wars over boundary disputes. I also vaguely remember there was also a Dinosaur exhibit ride sponsored by Exxon which screams irony. At any moment you’d expect one of the dinosaurs to start talking about how it’s decaying corpse is what fuels your Honda Civic for late night Hot Pocket runs. That gives me hope someday Barney will be liquefied and used to power my weedwacker. Long lines, hot and sticky Floridian weather and expensive bad food sum up the Disney magical experience. But count yourself lucky, at least your not the guy in the giant goofy costume getting kneed in the groin by a disgruntled dwarf. Well, unless you’re into that sorta thing.
Speaking of bad vacation spots, Oliver Reed, and Karen Black play the perfect odd couple who decide to rent a mansion in the deep south, and this time there’s no slave traders or people breaking out into old man river song. They bring along their whiny son, and geriatric aunt played by Betty Davis, apparently she was still alive and acting…or at least one of the two from what I could tell.
The eccentric owners played by Burgess Meredith, and Eileen Heckart like the couple’s lack of common sense, and give them a great deal on the rental fee, only $900 for the entire summer. That includes water, electricity, and free demonic possession with the rental deposit. The only stipulation is they have to babysit their old mother who lives in the attic, and occasionally toss her some table scraps. After a few weeks of living the plantation lifestyle Karen Black’s character, Marian starts dressing in prop costumes from the 1800’s. She has bouts of crying over broken punch bowls, and in general gets creepier, and creepier as the movie progresses. She’s sorta got that sexy “just stuck your cat in the microwave” look going on.
Ben (Oliver Reed) tries best to contain his inner Shatner but instead takes his frustration out on his son Davie with a good old game of dunk the kid in the dirty pool water. The kid narrowly escapes when he smacks him in the nose with some scuba gear, and flees to his room to cry in his big Davey Jones pillow.
Marian’s OCD kicks into high gear with her obsessive house cleaning, and picture frame arranging, and her son nearly asphyxiates in his bedroom from a leaky gas heater. Ben busts in the door just in time, and dangles Davie out the window for a little breather. Poor Betty Davis she gets blamed for the whole thing, as if they didn’t see “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” Pretty soon everyone is beginning to go a bit looney tunes. Ben starts hallucinating about leering chauffeurs doing drive by grinnings, and Betty Davis becomes a bed ridden invalid moaning like a stuck pig. Thankfully she gets put out of her misery when she gets offed by a freak coffin hit and run in her room. After a quick funeral, and some finger food Marian gets back to house cleaning. She doesn’t seem to be to at all bothered by the whole death by a demon chauffeur thing. Ben is just upset because she won’t give him any late night nookie down by the pool, and nobody can brood about sexual frustration like Oliver Reed can.
Ben wakes up the next morning to find the house giving itself a extreme home makeover. Roof tilings starts falling off in the rain revealing fresh new tiles, and old house siding gets ripped away for brand new paint. It’s the sorta thing that would make Ty Pennington all weepy eyed. “When your house is possessed always go with Sears brand vinyl siding.” While the house is under demonic renovation, Ben tries to escape with his son in their 70’s station wagon leaving Marian all alone upstairs with her creepiness.
Unfortunately, the getaway is stopped short by some possessed shrubbery at the end of the driveway which just goes to prove even Satan has malevolent landscapers. Marian catches up, and drives them back to the house since Ben has somehow got catatonic from the shock of the plant attack. They put him out by the pool in a lawn chair to drool, and watch Davie swim…badly. Evil forces start making waves, and turn the pool into a death jacuzzi from hell but Marian dives in just in time to rescue her son from another potential drowning. With his dumb luck a chimney would probably end up falling on him too….uh…Oh wait that did happen.
As far as ghost stories go, this one isn’t too bad even if it was made for TV horror. You can see how this movie influenced “The Shining” with Oliver Reed as the poor man’s Jack Nicholson. The house itself is pretty much the star of the show. There’s a few other twists, and turns to enjoy…. like whose been eating the old lady’s TV dinners, What’s up with the evil grinning chauffeur or why does Karen Black have to be so gall-darn creepy? Is she cross eyed or somethin’? Retroman says check it out, and be sure to hire only licensed contractors for your chimney repair.
Check out the trailer for Burnt Offerings