Haunted houses have proven to be a staple of the horror genre ever since House on Haunted Hill was released back in 1959. Classics such as The Haunting and The Innocents soon followed. The most fruitful period was around the beginning of the ‘80s with The Amityville Horror, The Shining, Hansu and The Changeling, amongst many others. With the likes of the Insidious, The Conjuring and Paranormal Activity franchises, they’re still as popular as ever. In Dan Curtis’ 1976 film Burnt Offerings, the house in question is restored and renewed in a rather unusual way.
The Rolfs are delighted to be able to rent such a lovely old mansion in the countryside for the summer vacation. Ben (Oliver Reed) is delighted to escape the city and to get it for such a small amount. Davey (Lee H. Montgomery) is excited to have a pool and so much to explore. Aunt Elizabeth (Bette Davis) is content just to be around her family. Marian (Karen Black) loves the beautiful house, especially the sitting room of the elusive elderly Mrs Allardyce, whose care is the one requirement of their tenure.
Presumably, the title Burnt Offerings relates to the Jewish sacrificial tradition, which takes on a dark and unusual resonance here. It can be viewed, in many ways, as the second cousin twice removed to The Shining. However, both the book and film predate its relative. The film itself is worthwhile largely for Reed and Davis, both giving larger than life performances. As a psychological horror it works in patches but it’s the overall aesthetic which is worth staying for.
Special Edition Contents:
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements by MGM
- Original uncompressed PCM mono audio
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Audio commentary by film historian Richard Harland Smith
- Audio commentary with director/co-writer/producer Dan Curtis, actress Karen Black and co-screenwriter William F. Nolan
- Acting His Face, an interview with actor Anthony James
- Blood Ties, an interview with actor Lee Montgomery
- From the Ashes, an interview with screenwriter William F. Nolan
- Portraits of Fear, an animated gallery of promotional materials and behind-the-scenes stills
- Theatrical trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Haunt Love
First pressing only: Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Kat Ellinger
Burnt Offerings is released on Dual Format Blu-ray and VDVD by Arrow Video on Monday.